DEA confirms Arizona's first carfentanil death case

Posted at 10:13 PM, Apr 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-16 08:04:08-04

For the first time, health officials are confirming there has been a death due to a carfentanil overdose in Arizona, meaning this dangerous drug is now on our streets.

Through a FOIA request to the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office, ABC15 discovered there was a death linked to carfentanil in August 2017.

The Drug Enforcement Administration confirmed to us the victim was a 21-year-old man in Peoria.

"The best high an opioid addict can get is the first high," explained DEA Special Agent Doug Coleman, who's been with the organization for 27 years. "The idea behind it [Carfentanil] is to make a more powerful drug, so they get repeat customers."

Carfentanil is often used as a tranquilizer for large animals, but has no safe use in humans, according to Coleman.

It's like fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, except way more powerful; it's estimated to be five thousand times more powerful than heroin.

In fact, just a small grain of it (the size of a grain of sand) is enough to kill you.

ABC15 has reported on suspected cases in the Valley before, but this is the first confirmed case through the Medical Examiner's office in the entire state.

"The first reaction was of concern, obviously, and worry because we hadn't seen carfentanil out here before," said Coleman.

And what's even more chilling is how easily someone can get their hands on it through the Dark Web.

"You can order it from a manufacturer in China, and they send it to the United States, and it lands on your doorstep in four days," Coleman said.

Coleman explains nearly 800 Arizonans have lost their lives in the last year due to opioid-related overdoses. He says, even one death is one too many from this epidemic.

"As an American, as a father, that's what concerns me the most is that we're losing people unnecessarily because these drugs are so powerful and so strong and they don't know what they're doing, and it's killing them," said Coleman.