Public health officials announced Tuesday that for the first time in New Hampshire, the synthetic opioid carfentanil was found in the blood of three residents who died from overdoses. The drug is approximately 100 times more potent than fentanyl, and is commonly used as a tranquilizer for large animals, including elephants.
Speaking at a press conference, Governor Chris Sununu said the state’s forensic lab confirmed the presence of the drug earlier in the day.
“Unfortunately, today is the first day that we’ve been able to confirm this. And worse yet, I think we all understand that it is likely not the last day that we talk about this issue,” said Sununu.
Carfentanil has been blamed for overdose deaths around the country in recent weeks. In New Hampshire, the drug was found in the blood of three men who died in separate overdoses in March. Two of those deaths were in Manchester, while the third was in the town of Meredith.
“Law enforcement--federal, state and local--are working on the investigation, and when arrests are made, they will be prosecuted,” said Gordon MacDonald, New Hampshire’s Attorney General.
Carfentanil poses a risk to first responders and health workers because it can be absorbed through the skin or accidentally inhaled. It also requires larger amounts of Narcan, the overdose reversal drug. DHHS Commissioner Jeff Meyers said the state is working to ensure there is an adequate supply of Narcan for emergency responders.