Elephant tranquilizer heroin OD suspected in Kent County

A police officer opens a package of confiscated heroin during a news conference in Pfraundorf near Rosenheim, southern Germany, on Friday, March 10, 2006. (AP Photo/Christof Stache)
A police officer opens a package of confiscated heroin during a news conference in Pfraundorf near Rosenheim, southern Germany, on Friday, March 10, 2006. (AP Photo/Christof Stache)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A new deadly concoction of heroin and elephant tranquilizer has apparently reached West Michigan and already may have led to a death, Kent County sheriff’s officials told 24 Hour News 8.

Preliminary results show that heroin cut with the elephant tranquilizer carfentanil likely led to one recent overdose death in Kent County, according to sheriff’s officials.

“I think it’s important the community understand the grave nature of this drug,” Kent County Undersheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young said Thursday. “It’s a very, very serious, very potent drug; it can cause death, will cause death.”

She told 24 Hour News 8 her department is also investigating two cases involving powder they believe included carfentanil. She said investigators are awaiting final test results in the death and drug seizures, but everything points to carfentanil. They came to that conclusion over the last day or two, she said.

LaJoye-Young did not identify the overdose victim, but said she was a woman who lived in a township and that she died recently.

Authorities also refused to provide more details on the two seizures of the suspected drug.

“Obviously, this is a pretty serious drug issue for us and we still have some ongoing investigations,” LaJoye-Young said.

Carfentanil is the most potent opioid that’s commercially used, 10,000 times stronger than morphine, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The head of Kent County’s Drug Court told 24 Hour News 8 that carfentanil is 100 times more powerful than fentanyl, which is already 50 times stronger than heroin alone.

As little as 2 milligrams of the synthetic drug can knock out a nearly 2,000 pound African elephant, according to Elephant Care International. A dose the size of a snowflake can kill a human.

Drug dealers are reportedly cutting carfentanil into heroin to stretch their supplies and intensify the high. It can slow breathing significantly.

Narcan, the treatment used to revive overdose victims, is also often ineffective treating a carfentanil overdose, LaJoye-Young said.

“Because these parties aren’t really responding to Narcan, our resources to save them are pretty minimal,” she added.

The deadly combination has hit Ohio the hardest. Police in Akron, Ohio said carfentanil was found in syringes used by some of the more than 90 people who overdosed in July. Eight people died from drug overdoses that month in Akron alone.

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