Public health warning released after significant increase in seized carfentanil in Cuyahoga County

CLEVELAND — The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office has released a public health warning about a significant increase in seized carfentanil.

According to the medical examiner, the Cuyahoga County Regional Forensic Science Laboratory has seen an increase in seized carfentanil powder and tablets being tested over the past month.

Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid and large animal sedative.  It is extremely potent and unsafe for human use, officials say.

Blue tablets marked with “A 215”, purported to be Oxycodone, but contain carfentanil (2018).
Courtesy: Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office

It is almost impossible to detect by sight because carfentanil is often mixed with other drugs or disguised as prescription tablets.

Officials say early toxicology screen tests revealed that last month was one of the deadliest months for drug overdoses in Cuyahoga County.  With test results pending, it is reportedly too early to determine how many of these deaths were carfentanil-related.

“The re-appearance of carfentanil in the local illicit drug supply is alarming. This is a very lethal drug and anyone using illicit or diverted drugs needs to be aware of the possibility of being exposed to it,” Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Gilson said in a press release. “Having another person in the vicinity to call 911 and/or administer naloxone can be life-saving.”

Cuyahoga County suffered 24 carfentanil-related deaths in 2018, according to the medical examiner’s preliminary 2018 Drug Overdose Statistics report. This is a significant decrease from the 191  carfentanil-related deaths in 2017.

Left: Carfentanil and Heroin mixture (2017). Middle: Carfentanil and Cocaine mixture (2018). Right: Carfentanil (2017).
Courtesy: Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office

More on carfentanil, here.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.