TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The first confirmed death in Arizona from the opioid Carfentanil has been reported and law enforcement officials are putting out the warning.
"It's quite alarming. It's a very, very powerful synthetic," said Chris Wildblood, Deputy Commander with the Counter Narcotics Alliance in Tucson.
It's powerful, potent, and has been proven deadly.
The Drug Enforcement Agency's (DEA) Phoenix division put out the news alert on the first confirmed overdose fatality in Arizona attributed to Carfentanil. According to a news release, a review of overdose investigation records revealed the incident occurred in late 2017.
"In this incident, a 21-year old male was discovered deceased in the driver's seat of a vehicle parked outside a local restaurant.
The Maricopa County Medical Examiner's report confirmed the presence of carfentanil, yet the source of the carfentanil remains unknown," the DEA news alert stated.
Wildblood said it has no place on the streets.
"People have to understand there's absolutely zero use for humans. None. There's no use in humans unless you're trying to kill them."
Wildblood used a grain of salt as a demonstrative tool to show the severity, saying that one grain of salt is enough of a dosage to kill three people.
"It is marketed under the trade name Wildnil as a general anesthetic agent for large animals. Carfentanil is intended for large-animal use only as its extreme potency makes it inappropriate for use in humans," the National Center for Biotechnology Information stated.
It's why Dr. Alexis Moreno, the Chief Veterinarian at the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, said she takes no chances when administering the drug to her animal patients.
"Anyone that is with me, if I accidentally expose myself to this drug, there's an entire protocol designed to help try to reverse me immediately so that I do not stop breathing," she said.
She doesn't mess around, because she's one of the few vets in Arizona licensed to use the drug, saying she's the only one at the Reid Park Zoo approved
by the DEA, along with a few veterinarians at the Phoenix Zoo.
She uses Carfentanil to anesthetize the larger animals, like the elephants, rhinos, hippos, and even grizzly bears.
"These are animals that are weighing anywhere from 10,000-14,000 pounds. I'm using volumes of two, three, or four d rops of this drug. So this is an extremely potent and extremely dangerous drug," Moreno explained. "So you can imagine when a person exposes themselves to a grain of salt, so to speak, that's enough to kill them many times over."
It's why it's shocking for John Leavitt, Commander with the Counter Narcotics Association, to see it on the streets.
"A kilogram of this is going to be significantly more profitable. It's going to create significantly more doses," he said. "So what's driving this is money. It's about people making money off the misery of other human beings."
The power and potency is worrisome for his partner at the alliance, "Just when you think we're gaining a little bit of ground on the opioid epidemic, and getting that word out there, to hear that this is actually starting to hit the streets in Arizona, that's pretty scary," Wildblood said.
The deadly effects are troubling for the law enforcement duo. They warned that concerned family members, who think a loved one might be abusing opioids, to keep multiple Narcan nasal spray doses on them at all times to quickly help in an emergency.
Leavitt explained nearly 100 percent of the time, Carfentanil users are not realizing what they're putting in their body. They think they're getting one thing and ending up with a death sentence.
"I don't think people realize that's what they're getting. I don't think people go out and say, 'I want (Carfentanil).' So it's not a matter of them even understanding they're being subjected to the danger. The danger is there because they're getting a drug they didn't bargain for."