In the latest battle of Long Island’s ongoing war with heroin and opioid addition, suppliers are mixing their batches with a new and dangers animal tranquilizer called carfentanil. An analogue of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, carfentanil has been co-opted and utilized by heroin distributors across the county, and has most recently made its way to Long Island. There have already been overdoses in a number of states, including Ohio, Florida and Indiana. It’s affecting more and more Long Island residents, most of whom don’t even know they’re taking the drug. Experts have reported that most fentanyl-derivative drugs are manufactured in China and brought in through Mexico.
Carfentanil is meant to sedate the largest of mammals, including elephants. Just two milligrams of the drug can put a 2,000-pound elephant to sleep. Since last month, about 300 people across four states have overdosed on heroin that had been with laced with the drug. In July, there were 35 carfentanil-related overdoses in Ohio, prompting the state to issue a public health advisory. Here on Long Island, law enforcement and prevention advocates have described the reports of carfentanil-laced heroin as “dire”, citing a continuous progression of that began with prescription painkillers and has led to heroin laced with animal sedatives.
Officials on Long Island and throughout the rest of the state have candidly disclosed that they feel they’re losing ground in this fight. While Governor Cuomo has enacted new reforms in hopes of more effectively combatting the problem (including increased access to treatment, expansion of Narcan deployment, heightened accountability of physicians and more), Long Island residents continue to overdose en masse. The arrival of carfentanil in locally distributed heroin adds another layer of complication, and frankly urgency, to the problem. Without action, it’s only a matter of time before more and more our friends, neighbors and loved ones fall prey to this new addiction threat.