Published: Sat, February 18, 2017
Global Media | By Meredith Barber

What Is Carfentanil? China Bans Opiate Stronger Than Drug That Killed Prince

What Is Carfentanil? China Bans Opiate Stronger Than Drug That Killed Prince

Carfentanil has been shown to be 100 times stronger than fentanyl - the opiate that was believed to have been the cause of Prince's death previous year - and was mainly used to tranquilize large animals, notably fully grown elephants weighing almost 2,000 pounds.

China has issued scheduling controls against synthetic opioid fentanyl-class substances, DEA officials announced.

The designation would place the drug on China's controlled substances list and close a lethal loophole associated with widespread opioid abuse in the U.S.

It drew wide public attention after Prince, the United States musician, died in April at his home of an accidental overdose of fentanyl. During 2015, drug overdoses accounted for 52,404 U.S. deaths, including 33,091 (63.1 percent) that involved an opioid, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Illicit drug dealers here then mix it into heroin or use it as a substitute. From 2010 to 2014, officials say, heroin overdoses more than tripled in the US - and part of the problem, they add, is that drug users may not realize how strong the adulterated drugs are. The controls could impact illegal imports to the United States, as China is the US's main supplier of fentanyl substances, according to a CNN report.

China had emerged as an important source country for opioids like carfentanil.

More than 400 seizures caused by carfentanil were reported across eight states from July through October, according to NPR.

The ban will stop carfentanil, furanyl fentanyl, acrylfentanyl and valeryl fentanyl from being legally manufactured and sold in China, effective March 1.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration called the move a potential "game-changer" that is likely to reduce supply of key chemicals driving a surge of overdoses and deaths among unsuspecting drug users in North America.

In its most recent drug threat assessment, the DEA said that of some 129 people who died of drug poisoning every day in 2014, 61 percent of the cases were tied to pharmaceutical opioids or heroin. All are prevalent in the US drug supply, Baer said. Carfentanil is far stronger than fentanyl.

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