They don’t call it the “elephant tranquilizer” for nothing. Carfentanil is a potent opioid that can knock out the largest pachyderm. Even the tiniest amount of it mixed in with other drugs can kill someone. Withdrawing from carfentanil-laced drugs brings on intense cravings that most users cannot escape, which can eventually lead to death.
Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid and one of the deadliest drugs in use. Its main medicinal purpose is a tranquilizer for large mammals, including elephants. It is 10,000 times stronger than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl.
Carfentanil can be produced quickly and easily in a lab, and it is cheap when compared to other substances of abuse. This makes it easy for drug dealers to add the substance to heroin and cocaine. It also can be added to pills to make the substances more potent.
Unfortunately, people who are exposed to carfentanil don’t even know it. However, continued use of it can cause a very quick and deadly overdose.
A testament to carfentanil’s deadliness was noted in 2016 by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), as it relayed to the public and law enforcement about possible accidental exposure to it.
“We see it on the streets, often disguised as heroin. It is crazy dangerous. Synthetics such as fentanyl and carfentanil can kill you. I hope our first responders — and the public — will read and heed our health and safety warning. These men and women have remarkably difficult jobs, and we need them to be well and healthy,” said the DEA’s acting administrator at the time.
No matter the drug it is laced with, whether that is cocaine or heroin, dealers could add trace amounts of carfentanil to it, increasing the possibility that someone will get hooked. Withdrawal symptoms from carfentanil are incredibly intense.
To note from a Reddit contributor who relayed carfentanil withdrawal as “probably some of the most painful things you will ever experience.”
Withdrawal symptoms include:
The withdrawal timeline for carfentanil or any opioids varies from person to person. Specific factors can vary the duration of a person’s withdrawal. These include:
This is a general timeline for carfentanil withdrawal:
6-12 hours: Withdrawal symptoms might start around six hours after the last dose. Early withdrawal effects will be felt, such as flu-like symptoms. Nausea, sweating, and body aches will be felt. Agitation, anxiousness, and restlessness will be experienced.
Days 1-3: At this point, body aches, shaking, muscle spasms, diarrhea, and powerful cravings will climax. Physical symptoms could begin to lessen after the third day. Psychological symptoms and cravings will continue, though.
Day 4 to 2 weeks: Once withdrawal symptoms peak, some of the symptoms will continue for a few weeks. The most common symptoms now are cravings, depression, chills, and fatigue.
Up to 2 months: Opioid withdrawal symptoms usually last for weeks or sometimes for months. The duration is determined by how long and how much someone has used or abused opioids. These symptoms tend to hang on: insomnia, apathy, anxiety, depression, and cravings.
It is never wise to stop taking any opioids on your own, especially carfentanil. They are astoundingly addictive, and their chemical composition contains the ability to rewire the brain.
People who abuse opioids will feel normal only when the drug is in their bodies. When the drug is not in the body, intense symptoms are felt, along with strong cravings. These effects can cause someone to start taking opioids again to be rid of the uncomfortable symptoms. In turn, this could cause an overdose and death.
The best and most safe method to undergo withdrawal is in a medically supervised detox. A dedicated team of doctors, nurses, and medical personnel treat withdrawal symptoms and help the patient through the arduous process. Staff also provides around-the-clock supervision to monitor your progress and assess your health care needs. They can then develop the best treatment plan for you.
A professional and ethical treatment program starts with medical detoxification. Here, the patient is gradually tapered off carfentanil to minimize uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. The patient will be administered opioid treatment medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to aid in the gradual tapering process.
The medications administered are a part of medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
MAT consists of medicines, therapy, and counseling. For the lethal drug carfentanil, the person must enter a residential treatment program. People in this program will receive a comprehensive variety of treatments and therapies that specifically address opioid addiction.
Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). (n.d.). DEA Issues Carfentanil Warning To Police And Public. from https://www.dea.gov/press-releases/2016/09/22/dea-issues-carfentanil-warning-police-and-public
MedicalNewsToday. (2019, September 2) What to know about opiate withdrawal. What are the symptoms of opiate withdrawal? Sissons, B., Westphalen, D. PharmD from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326223.php#symptoms
Reddit. (n.d.). R/Drugs – A Shitty Guide To Carfentanil. from https://www.reddit.com/r/Drugs/comments/777mgr/a_shitty_guide_to_carfentanil/?st=JN6CR17I&sh=ea6a4d41
WebMD. (2019 November) Treating Opioid Use Disorder With Medications. WebMD Medical Reference. WebMD Medical review. Ratini, M. DO, MS from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/breaking-an-addiction-to-painkillers-treatment-overvew#2