NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - "The Midwest is getting beat up with this stuff," said DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Stephen Azzam.
Carfentanil is a drug that has already caused 300 overdoses in Ohio since mid-August. It's 10,000 times more potent than morphine and is a derivative of fentanyl.
"Carfentanil is used as an animal tranquilizer. Two milligrams of it will sedate an elephant that weighs between two and four thousand pounds," Azzam said.
Drug dealers are using it to cut heroin, possibly marketing it as something that can give the user a stronger high.
"It takes a longer time to digest through the system, so it gives a longer high to the user," Azzam said.
Azzam said his agency is on alert.
"We'll find out when we have a mass overdose, like what happened in Ohio," he said. "They had 300 people overdose in a short period of time. That's a tragic way to find out. That's a traffic trend. While we are making domestic buys to find out where it's coming from and what's in it, it could hit very quick."
"There's no quality control over this, so those people who buy what they think is heroin is actually heroin mixed with other drugs," said Dr. Peter DeBlieux.
The New Orleans area, like many places across the country, is already dealing with a heroin epidemic. In Orleans Parish, there have been 81 heroin-related deaths so far this year, and 29 of them involved fentanyl.
"The most interesting part is, there isn't one singular profile, so there isn't someone who looks like the poster child for heroin addiction. These are people from all social economic backgrounds," DeBlieux said.
The antidote for a heroin overdose is Narcan, and it available to the public without a prescription. Some believe it has already saved thousands of lives. Fentanyl, however, is so potent that sometimes one dose of Narcan isn't enough. And when it comes to carfentanil, it has been reported that Narcan is often useless.
Azzam fears more lives will be lost.
"It's all about money to them. They don't care about lives or the person about to take that dose of heroin," he said.
He said education is key, and he hopes drug users will get the message and get help before it's too late.