Apr 9

Drug Fact Sheet: Fentanyl and Carfentanyl

Fentanyl and carfentanyl belong to the group of drugs known as opioids. They are currently both in the news in relation to the “opioid crisis” that is gripping North America, both Canada and the United States. Fentanyl was created for human use, while carfentanyl was only ever intended for large animal use like elephants. However, these substances are both being found in illicit drugs being marketed as heroin, MDMA, or cocaine. During Prohibition times in the USA, bootleggers used more and more unsafe chemicals in their alcohol to keep costs down and potency up. As the war on drugs continues in North America today, drug dealers are turning to substances that are stronger and cost less to manufacture. Police warn that street drugs are almost never what the dealer says, let alone a pure version.


Fentanyl is approximately 100 times stronger than morphine and is prescribed for severe chronic pain. It is a depressant, meaning it slows the messages traveling between the brain and the physical body, which is why it helps alleviate pain symptoms. However, an overdose of fentanyl means its depressant qualities are heightened, leading to a relaxing of muscles in control of automatic functions like breathing.fentanyl


Carfentanyl or carfentanil was first synthesized in 1974 as a variation (also known as an “analogue”) of fentanyl. It is the strongest commercial opioid, 100 times stronger than fentanyl, 5000 times stronger than heroin, and 10,000 times stronger than morphine. Carfentanyl affects the human body at only 1 microgram. It is used as a general anesthetic for large animals. The strongest fentanyl analogue designed for human use is sufentanil which is approximately 10 – 20 times less potent than carfentanyl.

One shot of Naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal medication, is usually all that is needed for a heroin overdose. However, an overdose involving carfentanyl can take more than half a dozen shots of Naloxone to overcome. A dose of carfentanyl the size of a grain of rice can kill a human. Due to the intense toxicity of this substance, authorities consider it a possible biological weapon. In 2016, the Mounties seized a kilogram of carfentanyl in Vancouver that, due its purity, had the potential to kill 50 million people, more than our entire Canadian population. A spokesperson for the RCMP said when the police seize regular street drugs like cocaine and heroin the intent for the shipment is known. However, because carfentanyl is so potent, large shipments could mean much more sinister motives.

Fentanyl and carfentanyl are some of the most toxic substances a human can ingest. If you are concerned about what could be in your drugs and are looking to make a change, contact our specialist for help and resources. This website is a resource of drug rehab and alcohol treatment programs throughout Canada – from Vancouver to Toronto, Calgary to Ottawa, and everywhere in between. Rehab from drugs and alcohol addiction is possible.


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