Pensacola doctors and anti-drug advocates believe there is a strain of heroin in Pensacola that can kill users with just one hit. It has been laced with carfentanil, a type of an elephant tranquilizer.
According to studies, heroin is most the addictive substance on the planet. Now it's even more deadly because some drug dealers are cutting heroin with a substance called carfetanil because it's cheaper and allows users to receive the same type of high.
"It only takes a tiny amount of the elephant tranquilizer to kill someone," Sacred Heart Hospital Director of the Emergency Department Dr. Trish Stephens said. "This is really scary. One hit and you could be dead. The lethal dose of carfentanil is the size of a poppy seed, two pounds of carfentanil can kill 50 million people."
Dr. Stephens believes that strain is now in our area and is a public health issue. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says it's 50 times more lethal than heroin.
"It's a public health issue," Dr. Stephens explained. "People don't know what they are taking and its so cheap for a drug dealer. It's not controlled, you don't know how much of it laced with heroin."
The numbers vary, but all data shows that heroin deaths have gone up in Florida significantly. Stephens believes carfentanil is to blame and it is likely killing people here as well.
She said it's hard to prove because there isn't a way to test specifically for carfentanil. She can tell they are dealing with something different because it takes far more medication to revive someone.
The drug Narcan is the antidote and they are often using five times as much to revive a user.
"It shuts down your respiratory system and your heart and there is sudden death," Dr. Stephens said.
The Community for Drug and Alcohol Council (CDAC) provides help for users. Prevention coordinator, Denise Manassa said the problem is addicts are so focused on getting high, they may not know what is in the drug.
"Addiction is a disease," Manassa said. "When someone starts to use a drug they look for that euphoric feeling and they chase that."
CDAC offers free help. You can call them at (888) 994-9944 or click here to visit their website.