WASHINGTON — After several fatal overdoses were reported in Maryland this month, police around the state are spreading the word and trying to locate the dealers responsible for selling carfentanil, a drug so powerful it can take down an elephant.
The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said there have been at least three deaths so far tied to the synthetic opioid.
Two of the cases were in Anne Arundel County; the other, in Frederick County.
“Certainly we are looking for any links between the narcotic and who may have provided it,” said Anne Arundel County Police Department spokesman Marc Limansky.
Authorities are working to find out how people are able to obtain the drug, which is not made for humans and is used as a tranquilizer for large animals.
“Our evidence collection unit collects any information that they can obtain, whether it’s fingerprints, photographs, cellphones — whatever we can find at the [overdose] scene to determine where these narcotics may have come from,” said Limansky.
Police departments, health officials and addiction treatment facilities have all been put on high alert. Officials say it is possible that some people who deal other drugs, such as heroin, may mix carfentanil into their product without users knowing.
“It’s all about warning the community,” Limansky said. “A person taking this is very likely to die as a result.”
Gov. Larry Hogan, who declared a state of emergency early last month in response to the state’s opioid epidemic, called carfentanil an “incredibly dangerous substance.”
In a statement, Hogan said the state’s Opioid Operational Command Center, formed as part of the emergency declaration, would help raise awareness and lend support to local governments.
“We are facing a new fight against carfentanil,” Hogan said. “It is imperative that we raise awareness of just how deadly these drugs are.”
The Drug Enforcement Administration issued a nationwide alert about the drug in September, warning it has been linked to a significant number of overdose deaths in various parts of the country.
The DEA says carfentanil is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl, which itself is 50 times more potent than heroin.
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