A new drug that’s 10,000 times stronger than morphine has hit the streets of New Hampshire. And that’s leaving many first responders scrambling to figure out how to deal with and treat this deadly substance.
At a press conference Tuesday, Governor Chris Sununu delivered some grim news: carfentanil, a powerful new opioid, has been linked to two deaths in Manchester.
Hours later fire officials in the city were preparing.
“Just be hyper, hyper vigilant of what is out there, hyper vigilant of where you put your hands, what you come in contact with,” Manchester Fire’s EMS Director Chris Hickey told the city’s firefighters during one of his two training sessions Wednesday.
This kind of drug is unlike anything they’ve dealt with before. It’s designed to be used as a tranquilizer…for elephants. And its lethal dosage is just 2 milligrams, as tiny as a snowflake. Even getting it on your skin could be deadly.
Chris Hickey, who’s the EMS Director at Manchester Fire, trained the city’s firefighters on how to treat overdoses with Carfentanil now on the streets. Credit Paige Sutherland/NHPR
“There is nothing out there other than going in in hazmat suits on every single overdose that is going to completely protect us. We just have to be super, super careful with it,” Hickey told his men.
And treating overdoses – isn’t too simple either. Hickey says in the past few weeks his guys have had to use 6 to 8 doses of the overdose reversal drug Narcan to revive someone, which is more than twice the normal dose.
Dr. William Goodman is the CMO at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester where they treat overdoses on a daily basis. Now that Carfentanil is in the picture – he says Narcan may not be enough to do the trick.
“Usually Narcan is stronger than heroin so it out-competes and it blocks the receptor and heroin can’t trigger the new receptor and that is how it works. But Carfentanil is so strong it out-competes the Narcan, so it would really be an arms race – of the drug versus the antidote,” Goodman said.
But Goodman says he isn’t aware of any other antidote on the market. So for now – multiple doses will have to do.