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Nassau issues warning about dangers of synthetic opioid carfentanil

A sample of carfentanil being analyzed at the

A sample of carfentanil being analyzed at the DEA's Special Testing and Research Laboratory in Sterling, Va. In April, Nassau officials will hold a session on how to treat those under the influence of the drug. Credit: AP / Russell Baer

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano Tuesday joined a growing list of officials warning the public about the potentially deadly narcotic carfentanil — a synthetic opioid that is reportedly behind an increase in fatal overdoses in the Midwest.

Mangano, in a news release announcing a “Deadly Drug Alert,” said the drug may be making its way to New York, adding that first responders and those trained to combat overdoses with the opioid reversal drug naloxone should take extra precautions when it comes to carfentanil.

Nassau County will hold a free training and information session from 7 to 9 p.m. April 13 at a location yet to be determined where first responders and those with loved ones involved in substance abuse can learn how to safely treat people under the influence of carfentanil, Mangano said.

“In the case of carfentanil, both the person overdosing and the rescuer are in danger if they come into contact with this potent drug, as a minuscule amount of the powdery substance — that gets absorbed into the skin or is unwittingly inhaled — can cause overdose or death,” Mangano said. “Anyone attempting to assist a person overdosing on carfentanil is advised to wear protective gloves and a face shield.”

Nassau County’s toxicologist, Joseph Avella, will conduct the training session, along with Keith Scott from the former Promoting Specialized Care and Health, now known as WellLife Network, a Queens-based organization.

In November, Suffolk County held a similar event at Suffolk County Community College’s Grant Campus in Brentwood.

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration issued a warning to the public and law enforcement nationwide in September about carfentanil, describing the drug as 100 times more potent than fentanyl — which is itself 50 times more potent than heroin. DEA officials have said the drug is often disguised on the street as heroin.

Although authorities have said carfentanil has not yet surfaced in New York, Suffolk County Medical Examiner Michael Caplan said in a telephone interview Tuesday that the drug is a serious threat and he has already undergone training to deal with it.

“This is an extremely powerful drug,” Caplan said, adding that carfentanil “has classically been used in veterinary medicine to tranquilize elephants.”

Reservations for Nassau County’s training event are required and space is limited. To reserve a spot, contact Eden Laikin at or 516-571-6105.

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