Fentanyl Analog Detected in 12 States Carfentanil Re-Emerges

Test tubes with liquid drops

A Millennium Health Signals Alert released Thursday found carfentanil in urine 35 times in 12 states in 2023, the potent fentanyl analog used in veterinary medicine as a large animal tranquilizer but not approved for human use.

Carfentanil, 100 times more potent than fentanyl, was detected in a urine drug test screening just once in 2022, according to Millennium Health, a specialty lab that conducts urine and oral fluid drug testing.

Our analysis adds to growing evidence that carfentanil may be making a comeback, Millennium Health Chief Clinical Officer Angela G. Huskey, PharmD, CPE, said in an email.

With the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, detections of the fentanyl analog declined sharply as a result of a spike in synthetic opioid overdose deaths reported in 2016 and 2017. A lone detection of carfentanil was reported by Millennium Health in 2022 in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.

Three separate drug cases submitted by Trumbull County law enforcement agencies in August 2023 were found to contain carfentanil by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s drug chemistry lab. According to the office of the state’s attorney general, 3 kilograms of carfentanil were also seized in Franklin County by the Central Ohio Major Drug Interdiction Task Force. In addition, 11 additional states have detected carfentanil.

Millennium Health’s Dr Huskey says despite the re-emergence of the potent fentanyl analog, recent detections are still well below the spike of 2016-17.

Dr Huskey said that, despite the fact that carfentanil is lethal, the number of detections in 2023 is much lower than in peak years. The good news is that there’s still time to raise awareness about carfentanil’s dangers. We are closely monitoring trends in carfentanil data and will provide updates as necessary.

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