The Opioid Epidemic is Getting Worse

I first blogged about the opioid epidemic back in March 2016.  Deaths from opioid pain relievers have more than quadrupled since 1999. (NIH)  The problem is so severe, it has contributed to a reduction in U.S life expectancy. (JAMA)

Now, authorities are seeing more designer and synthetic opioids, which are even stronger than prescription opioids.

Here’s the bad news: synthetic opioid fentanyl is 10 times deadlier than heroin.  A 3-milligram dose is enough to kill an average adult male. (statnews)  New York authorities recently confiscated nearly 195 pounds of fentanyl. (NBC)

Here’s the even worse news: synthetic opioid carfentanil hydrochloride is 100 times deadlier than fentanyl.  A 20-microgram dose is enough to kill an average adult male.  In the U.S. alone, there have been 400 confirmed deaths from carfentanil. (Forensic Chemistry)

Authorities were concerned that these drugs would be difficult to detect in humans, given the extremely low doses.  But following a recent single-vehicle accident, Florida scientists were able to confirm the presence of carfentanil and fentanyl in the driver’s blood.  They used an Agilent LC equipped with a Poroshell column.  It was the first report of a DUI case where carfentanil and synthetic opioids were confirmed and described in a human performance blood sample.

An Alberta toxicology laboratory is the first in Canada to develop a test that can reliably detect carfentanil in a routine blood screen.  They also used an Agilent LC, as pictured in this news article (third photo).

U.S. scientists had earlier developed a sensitive, semi-automated method for analyzing 13 fentanils, including carfentanil, in human urine.  Their method uses an Agilent HPLC system.

Today’s blog post topic was suggested by Agilent employee Marcus Kim.


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