The Dangers of Carfentanil as Opioid Deaths Explode

North Carolina already suffers from one of the worst opioid epidemics in the United States. Now, a deadly new mix of drugs is making a lethal substance even more dangerous.

Carfentanil – a type of fentanyl used to tranquilize large animals – has been identified as a key ingredient in drug mixes that contain heroin or other opioids. Ten thousand times more powerful than morphine, and a hundred times more potent than deadly fentanyl, carfentanil is only legal for veterinary use. Its nickname – “the elephant tranquilizer” – suggests how unfit it is for human consumption.

This substance has been linked to at least 33 drug-related deaths around the state this past year.

Grim statistics

If it runs rampant, carfentanil might aggravate already grim projections about the opioid crisis in North Carolina. Heroin, fentanyl, and their related analogs caused more than half of local opioid deaths in 2016 (58.4%). This number is expected to shoot to 90% by 2021 if the epidemic is not properly addressed.

The “elephant tranquilizer” has grown in popularity among American drug users, particularly in Florida and Ohio, since 2016. If it continues to be in demand, healthcare professionals cite one possible reason: for the addict, it simply packs a dramatically more powerful punch.

Cheap and easy

But not all carfentanil-related deaths can be traced to people craving its potent kick. Some addicts may be unaware that the substance, virtually undetectable, has been added to other the drugs they buy.

Dealers tend to peddle drugs with carfentanil because it is cheaper to procure and produce, as is the case with many other fentanyl derivatives. This specific analog is also easier to mix in with heroin. Dealers can buy a kilogram of fentanyl from China for only $2,000, but would have to pay $64,000 for a kilogram of heroin from a Mexico. They can also simply distribute micro-grams of the substance through the U.S. Mail.

Aside from carfentanil, it is estimated there are at least nine other fentanyl analogs used in North Carolina.

Legal implications

As an experienced Raleigh drug lawyer, I see the emergence of carfentanil affecting not just human lives but all four wheels of the justice system. As law enforcers rightfully combat drug dealers, prosecutors might recognize the graver impact of making and selling carfentanil mixes. They may choose to seek higher-level charges against defendants, changing the complexion of any case.

Not every drug deal carries the risk of causing a fatality – but with carfentanil involved, the risk and harm drug dealers pose become even more magnified.

Kurtz & Blum, PLLC works hard on challenging drug cases and ensures our clients receive the top defense they expect and deserve.


  • Deadly new drugs emerge in North Carolina’s opioid crisis,
  • Potent elephant tranquilizer infiltrates North Carolina heroin supplies,
  • Report: Fentanyl overdoses jumped in 2016,