BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCIV) — Berkeley County EMS officials are warning people about the dangers of a new powerful drug they're seeing on local streets. Its more potent than morphine and heroin, which means it’s also deadly.
It's called carfentanil. Often disguised as heroin, carfentanil can be deadly because it’s very strong and addictive. Berkeley County EMS officials tell ABC News 4 they've seen more of it during the past three to six months.
It’s a synthetic opioid that's 10-thousand times more powerful than morphine and 100 times stronger than fentanyl. Doctors say only a few micrograms can cause oxygen levels to drop enough so the heart stops breathing.
While there are no reported deaths in Berkeley County from carfentanil, doctors at Trident Medical Center say they're seeing cases of it. They worry drug users will easily overdose from it because of possible unknown additives.
"Even for people that have a tolerance and that's why it’s so deadly is that even people that have addiction and have built up a tolerance,” said Dr. Eric Wright, emergency physician at Trident Medical Center. “This especially and when its laced with other chemicals, strychnine, and lots of other different chemicals that drugs are cut with when they're put on the black market."
Doctor Wright says Narcan is an antidote for overdoses of opioids. It can reverse the symptoms of carfentanil and other synthetic drugs that can be deadly. Berkeley County EMS responders keep it available when they're called to possible drug overdoses.
"If you can identify that someone is having overdose and you can start intubating them, placing a breathing tube or putting them on life support, the quicker you do that the better the chance they have to not suffer any brain damage or to ultimately die," said Dr. Wright.
Carfentanil is used as a tranquilizer for elephants and other large animals. But now that it’s being used illegally for human consumption, authorities want the public to know about the deadly risks.