Meredith death and two others linked to large animal tranquilizer
By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
MEREDITH — Police confirmed Wednesday they are investigating an overdose death in Meredith that is being attributed to a dangerous synthetic opioid 10,000 times more potent than morphine.
Police Sgt. Phil McLaughlin said the death associated with the drug carfentanil occurred last month in Meredith, but referred specific questions about the case to Detective John Eichorn, who didn't return calls for comment.
Kim Fallon, chief investigator with the state medical examiner's office, said the person who died was a 48-year-old man. She declined to provide his name. His body was found March 13 in his home.
On Tuesday, Gov. Chris Sununu held a news conference to disclose that lab work had confirmed the drug was linked to the Meredith death and two others in Manchester. Further details and identities are being withheld while the cases are being investigated.
No arrests have been made.
Sununu said this is the first time that carfentanil has been identified as being present in New Hampshire.
The drug was created to tranquilize large animals. It is related to but 100 times more powerful than fentanyl, which itself is an incredibly powerful drug responsible for most of the state's 500 overdose deaths last year.
Tim Pifer, director of the state's forensic lab, said drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil are manufactured in labs that can churn out the illegal product around the clock without requiring any agricultural operations.
Even though use of the drug has potential fatal consequences, this does not seem to dissuade some users.
"Unfortunately, the addict gets into chasing the next extreme high," Pifer said.
James Vara, the governor's adviser on addiction and behavioral health, said these synthetic drugs are sometimes mixed with heroin to create a more intense high.
"There's absolutely no quality control to any of this," he said. "People don't know what they are getting."
He said fentanyl and carfentanil are smuggled in from outside the country. Illegal manufacturing is thought to take place in labs in Mexico using precursor chemicals produced in China, Vara said.
These drugs have the potential for being absorbed through the skin or inhaled, making them dangerous to law enforcement officers or others responding to an overdose.
“We are continuing to assess the situation, but there is clearly enough evidence to make the public aware and felt it was imperative to urge caution for those that may come in contact with this substance,” Sununu said in the news conference.
McLaughlin said Meredith does not have the drug problems of some larger communities, but officers have been briefed about carfentanil and the danger it presents for emergency responders who might accidentally come in contact with it.
Laconia police Capt. Matt Canfield said there's a possibility the drug is present in the city.
Police who are called to overdose deaths set up a crime scene in hopes of making a case against the person who supplied the drugs.
“The purpose is to potentially charge that person with the death, but these are tough cases to put together,” he said.
Carfentanil, also known under the commercial name Wildnil, was first synthesized in the 1970s as an anesthetic for large animals. It waas not created for human used, according to www.rehabcenter.net. (Graphic courtesy rehabcenter.net)