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Finnish Customs warns about an extremely dangerous medicinal substance, carfentanil – merely handling the substance can lead to death

18.7.2017 8.00
Press release

Finnish Customs has seized a narcotic and extremely dangerous medicinal substance new to Finland, carfentanil, the strongest known opioid.In other countries, carfentanil has been sold as other narcotics because it is inexpensive, and it is possible that this is done also in Finland.

Carfentanil belongs to the group of fentanyls and is a synthetic opioid manufactured in laboratory conditions. It is used legally as an animal drug, e.g. as a tranquilizer for large animals. The substance is the strongest known opioid, up to 10 000 times stronger than morphine, and therefore extremely dangerous if misused. It is not possible to dose a single dose that would be safe for a human, as around 0.03 milligrams of carfentanil is lethal to an adult. In comparison, 30 milligrams of heroin or around 3 milligrams of fentanyl (1 000 times stronger than morphine) is a lethal dose to an adult.

Merely handling the substance can lead to death

Carfentanil, such as other fentanyls, depresses the central nervous system and can therefore cause sudden asphyxia leading to death. Merely handling carfentanil is dangerous, because the substance can also be absorbed through inhalation and skin contact.

Carfentanil has not been classified as a narcotic by the UN convention or nationally in Finland, where carfentanil is considered a medicinal substance. By the end of June 2017, seizures of carfentanil have been reported to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) e.g. by the following EU countries: Sweden, Belgium, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and the UK. Carfentanil has also been detected at least in Norway and Serbia. Deaths related to the use of carfentanil have occurred in Europe.

Carfentanil sold as other narcotic substances due to higher profit

The extremely dangerous carfentanil is sold as other narcotics due to its low purchase price. Online, one kilo carfentanil can be bought wholesale for a couple of thousand euros. When sold online on dark marketplaces, wholesale quantities of carfentanil can yield around a 1 000-fold profit.

Carfentanil is sold illegally online in powder form and dissolved in liquid. Usually the powder is sold by the milligram. For example, 50 milligrams (0.05 grams) could be enough for as many as 1670 doses that are lethal to an adult human.

Carfentanil dissolved in liquid is usually sold as a 0.75–1.5 mg/ml solution in 20 ml bottles. This amount could be enough for as many as 1 000 doses that are lethal to an adult human.

Press Release