BY ANABELLE DOLINER ON 9/27/21 AT 5:34 PM EDT
Originally published on Newsweek website:
Two suspects were charged last week after an enormous quantity of the elephant tranquilizer carfentanil was seized by authorities in Riverside County, California.
Carfentanil, a synthetic opiate, is the most potent fentanyl analog found in the U.S. Typically used in a veterinary capacity to anesthetize large animals, the drug is 10,000 times more powerful than morphine and 100 times more powerful than fentanyl.
The news comes as opiate overdoses reach crisis levels around the country, due in large part to the isolating and destabilizing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Shawn Ryan, Chair of Legislative Advocacy for the American Society of Addiction Medicine, opiate overdoses in the U.S. increased by 15 percent in the three to four months leading up to August 2021.
According to a news release from the Riverside County's District Attorney's office, the arrests and arraignments of 30-year-old Andres Jesus Morales and 27-year-old Alyssa Christine Ponce came after an extended investigation by the Riverside Police Department.
In late August, authorities found a whopping 21 kilograms (approximately 46.3 pounds) of carfentanil at a house in the city of Perris, California, located about 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles. Additionally, police were able to seize four kilograms of cocaine and one kilogram of heroin.
They searched the home in relation to a suspected drug trafficking ring in Riverside County. Carfentanil is highly lethal: according to the Riverside DA's office, a lethal dose of carfentanil for a human would be measured at a minuscule "nanogram level." In contrast, it takes far more fentanyl—about 2 milligrams—to kill a human. For scale, fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. If the 21 kilograms of carfentanil were to be mixed with other drugs, the quantity would have the potential to "kill more than 50 million people," added the DA's office in a statement.
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