The Milwaukee Medical Examiner’s Office on Friday confirmed the state’s first death caused by carfentanil, a synthetic opioid usually used to sedate large animals.
The medical examiner’s office identified the victim as James W. Kinnee, 48, who was found dead March 22 in Milwaukee.
Sara Schreiber, the office’s forensic technical director, said this isn’t the first time the drug has come up but it’s the first time it’s caused a death. She said carfentanil’s power can cause a quick death.
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“Carfentanil is approximately 10,000 times more potent than morphine,” she said. “And fentanyl, the schedule II (drug) that you might get when dealing with pain, from your doctor, is 80 to a 100 times more powerful than morphine.”
Schreiber said the drug can stop users from breathing by attaching to receptors in the brain. Its effects are felt so quickly that anti-overdose drugs such as Narcan are unlikely to prevent death.
“Because of the increased potency you’re going to need far more Narcan,” she said. “It’s going to need to be administered very quickly after use in order to save an individual. So, there’s not a high likelihood that you’re going to be able to meet all of those things.”
Schreiber said the drug is often encountered as a powder and mixed with heroin but can be taken in a variety of ways.
The medical examiner’s office tweeted Monday fentanyl deaths are on track to increase by 60 percent this year.
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