An increase of the dangerous drug fentanyl and its deadly cousin carfentanil have made their way into Warren County and the surrounding areas, bringing death and despair with them.
With similar names, the two synthetic opioids are often confused with one another. However, the difference in their potency is extreme, and these drugs being mixed with alcohol and other illegal substances are causing a higher rate of overdoses.
Between McMinnville and Nashville, an increase of fentanyl and carfentanil is being discovered. As a result, overdose deaths are spiking, making Tennessee one of the 10 worst states for drug fatalities, according to American Addiction Centers.
Another study by The Tennessean showed a 70 percent increase in fentanyl-related deaths in the state in 2018. A recent autopsy of a Warren County resident showed both of the synthetic opioids, as well as meth, in the victim’s system causing the deadly overdose.
District Attorney General Lisa Zavogiannis says, “I know fentanyl and carfentanil are here, and it scares me to death. I’m also aware of areas surrounding us which have been hit harder than we have, such as Manchester, Murfreesboro, Woodbury and others. I don’t know how it’s getting here, but it is in our county and all around us.”
Fentanyl is a prescription pain reliever, approved for treating severe pain, such as advanced cancer. The drug is between 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine and is highly addictive.
Carfentanil is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl. Its original purpose was to be used as an elephant tranquilizer. Simply touching the drug can cause severe health damage.
Carfentanil is a white powder which is typically mixed into heroin, cocaine, fake benzodiazepine, pain pills and meth. Evidence has also led investigators to discover carfentanil being added to marijuana in different regions in Tennessee.
Detective Eddie Colwell and Sgt. detective Tony Jenkins still see meth as being the most abused and sold drug in Warren County, as it has been for many years now. However, the quality, strength and amount being discovered in McMinnville is now much higher.
With carfentanil making its way into rural areas and surrounding counties, meth could be mixed with these dangerous chemicals to produce more overdose deaths.
Jenkins warns the public by saying, “You never know what you’re going to get. The dealers are in it to make a profit and they don’t care about quality. If there is a cheaper ingredient they can use, or the dealers can sell you something cheaper than what you’re actually trying to buy, they’ll do it. These individuals are just in it for the money.”
Since fentanyl and carfentanil are cheaper to make, take less amounts to create a feeling of euphoria, and are almost undetectable when mixed with other substances, manufacturers of illegal drugs are taking advantage of these attributes to save money, regardless of how it may harm their customers.
As prescription drugs become harder to find due to the tighter restrictions of pain medication, addicts are turning to street drugs to get their fix. Other dealers are beginning to press their own pills and are adding fentanyl or heroin to provide the sought-after high.
Teens who don’t have a tolerance to opioids and may go to a party, have a drink and experiment with a drug that is unknowingly laced with fentanyl or carfentanil, could end up dying.
Law enforcement officers, as well as the District Attorney’s Office, are emphasizing the need for parents to monitor their children and inform them of this deadly synthetic opioid being put into an assortment of recreational drugs leading to a high chance of overdose.
“This is their lives and their futures. With the current dangers of drug use and addiction, we have to talk to our children and protect them to the best of our ability,” said Zavogiannis.