Synthetic opioids are evolving so fast, even Michigan’s forensic scientists are caught in a game of cat and mouse: As soon as a new synthetic gets identified, another one pops up.
First it was fentanyl, which can be lethal even in very small doses – far smaller than a lethal dose of heroin. Then it was carfentanil, which made headlines for being even more powerful than fentanyl. And new variations on these synthetics keep turning up in crimes scenes and autopsies.
Wayne County Medical Examiner Carl Schmidt says at least with carfentanil, they knew what they were dealing with.
“But when you get these synthetic fentanyls, who come from who knows where, you don’t know what their potency is,” he says. “But so far they’ve proven to be more potent than just plain old fentanyl.”