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Sunday Mornings with Rania: The Most Dangerous Drug in America Hits Houston

smwr opiods 1 Houston Crime Stoppers

We all do our best to stay abreast of the ever-changing risks facing our children in this ever-changing world. Keeping up with the launch of new technology alone will keep you busy. That said, when news recently broke that America’s deadliest drug was found on the streets of Houston, I was shocked. What’s so important to know about this newest danger is that engagement with a mere granule could kill and dealers are already mixing it with common drugs sold to teens.

Here’s what you need to know now:

Houston city leaders came together to announce the shocking news after 80 grams of what appeared to be methamphetamine, was in fact tested and determined to be the very powerful opioid called carfentanil. According to reports, carfentanil is related to fentanyl (the opioid blamed for pop star singer Prince’s fatal overdose) but carfentanil is 100 times more powerful than fentanyl and 10,000 times more potent than morphine. To put it another way, in its typical use, carfentanil is used to sedate elephants. It’s now being sold to our children.

The substance, which was found in Houston in its powder form, looks like table salt and is so dangerous that contact with even a single grain (which may not be visible to the naked eye) can dangerously lower one’s heart and breathing rates, ultimately leading to death. The amount recently confiscated by HPD was enough for 4,000 lethal doses.

According to Dr. Peter Stout with the Houston Forensic Science Center:

Last week, we confirmed that a case that came into us on June 7, 2017 was, in fact, carfentanil. Just an 80 milligram amount could kill 4000 people. This stuff is really frightening. Nobody really knows what the lethal dose is. Its only legitimate use is as an elephant tranquilizer, so the estimates are a lethal dose is 20 micrograms. That would be 20 millionths of a gram… something so small, you’re not going to see it. What happens is that you stop breathing. As quickly as you suffocate, that’s as quickly as you die.

The fentanyl derivative is being imported from China according to reports and being used by dealers to subsidize their supply of opioids (i.e., heroin); it is also being added to counterfeit pain medications used by drug traffickers. Most recently, a 22-year-old man was arrested near a Katy post office after picking up a package from China which contained 102 grams of fentanyl according to Harris County Precinct 5 Constable Ted Heap. The man was charged with possession and intent to distribute. According to Constable Heap:

“I think many people, especially on this side of town, consider [opioid use] to be an epidemic at this time. We’ve had a lot of young adults who have overdosed and taking 100 grams of pure fentanyl off the street is something that I think will have an impact, not only on west Harris County, but on Houston, as a whole.”

In response to finding carfentanil in Houston, law enforcement is ordering thicker gloves, doubling up on gloves, specialized masks and tougher evidence bags. They are being told to assume any illegal pill or powder they encounter will have fentanyl or carfentanil from now on.

The reality is that teens and young adults across our city, from the greatest to the most challenging parts of town, have tried or are actively using forms of heroin and other opioids. We have known for some time that dealers can manipulate their supply without a care in the world for the user. Now we know that some of these dealers have access to the “most dangerous drug in America” and are not afraid to use it. It’s scary and worth a conversation today with those you love in your life.

Posted by Rania Mankarious on 9 Jul 2017

About the author

Executive Director of Crime Stoppers of Houston