The Drug Enforcement Administration is issuing a warning for the dangerous drug carfentanil after it was confirmed to be the cause of death in a case late last year. It is the first reported death due to carfentanil in Arizona.
In late 2017, a 21-year-old man was found dead in the driver's seat of a vehicle parked outside a restaurant. The Maricopa County Medical Examiner's office report confirmed carfentanil was in the man's system.
“Carfentanil is an extremely dangerous drug and its presence in Arizona should be incredibly alarming for all of us, including the DEA and our law enforcement partners who continue to combat the opioid epidemic in this state,” said Doug Coleman, Special Agent in Charge of DEA in Arizona, in a news release.
Carfentanil was used to subdue hostage takers in the 2002 Moscow theater hostage crisis, but led to the deaths of many of the victims. It was sprayed into the air, and responding medical crews were under-equipped to treat victims.
It's such a potent drug that the Associated Press has reported on its potential as a chemical weapon. First responders are trained to avoid all contact with the drug while responding to overdoses to avoid putting themselves in danger of an overdose.
“First responders should be prepared and take all necessary precautions to prevent incidental exposure," Coleman said.
The DEA is now investigating the source of the drug. Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid. It is 100 times more potent than the same dose of fentanyl, and 5,000 times as potent as heroin, according to a study out of New Hampshire. Carfentanil is used to tranquilize large animals in veterinary settings.
If you have information about the source of carfentanil in Arizona, you can speak with a DEA duty agent at 602-664-5600.