Blamed for deaths in other states, ‘extremely dangerous’ opioid detected in RI

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island health officials are issuing a warning about an immensely powerful drug being blamed for deaths around the country, including at least three in New Hampshire.

Joseph Wendelken, a spokesperson for the state Department of Health, said the presence of carfentanil has been detected in Rhode Island. The synthetic opioid is strong enough to tranquilize large animals, such as elephants, and even a small amount can kill a human.

“Carfentanil is 10 thousand times more potent than morphine,” said Wendelken. “So, you’re talking about a drug that is extremely, extremely dangerous and extremely lethal.”

Wendelken also said carfentanil is 100 times more powerful than fentanyl, another synthetic painkiller being blamed for the ongoing overdose epidemic in Southern New England.

“Luckily, we have not seen any overdose deaths in Rhode Island that were related to carfentanil,” Wendelken added.

Making it even more dangerous, according to Wendelken, is the fact that it can be sold in counterfeit and combined with or mistaken for a less powerful opioid.

“Sometimes people think they’re buying one kind of drug, but it’s actually carfentanil,” he said, stressing that the drug has no medicinal use for humans.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office is currently investigating 12 cases involving carfentanil. Officials there said the drug has been linked to three fatal overdoses.

On Wednesday, the Maine Attorney General’s office confirmed that one person has died after using carfentanil.

The CBS affiliate in Baltimore reports there have been four overdose deaths in Maryland tied to the drug in recent weeks. Last fall, the sedative was to blame for eight deaths in Ohio, according to CNN.

If you’re using illicit drugs like carfentanil, or you know someone who is, the heath department urges you to call 942-STOP.