Deadly drug used to tranquilise elephants blamed for a spike in addicts' deaths in West Yorkshire

ADDICTS are '˜playing Russian roulette' with a deadly synthetic drug which is 10,000 times stronger than morphine and could have killed at least 16 people in the region, a leading officer has warned.

Tuesday, 1st August 2017, 6:00 pm
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 11:55 am
Drugs paraphernalia

West Yorkshire Police have admitted that the use of fentanyl is becoming growing problem, particularly among heroin users, and have confirmed it is linked to a spate of deaths already this year.

Since November, 109 drug fatalities have been reported in West Yorkshire, and toxicology tests show 16 have been linked to fentanyl or even more powerful derivatives. A further 50 reports are still pending.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine, but is much stronger.

It is typically used to treat patients with severe pain or to manage pain after surgery.

Carfentanil, while a derivative of fentanyl, has no use for humans and is usually used to help tranquilise elephants.

It is so toxic that even a dose the size of a grain of salt could be enough to kill a person.

But there are fears that the drug’s use is growing simply because it is becoming more readily available, particularly through untraceable sites on the ‘dark web’ or being processed in illegal laboratories.

Det Supt Patrick Twiggs, said: “The drug can be manufactured by anyone with just a modicum of chemical knowledge and the necessary equipment, but the main supply route is coming in through the dark web, principally from China or Hong Kong, although it is manufactured in places like Mexico and Canada.

“The threat is mainly limited to the drug-using community, but as it’s so toxic that if it falls into the wrong hands it could pose a danger to people.

“Sadly, we feel this is a drug that’s here to stay and while we will do everything we can to stem the flow of this supply, because of its availability on the dark web, it’s something that’s very difficult to control and is freely available.”

A series of drug deaths were reported in April and May, including the Leeds and Wakefield area, and prompted a warning from police who warned that batches of heroin were being mixed with fentanyl, or it’s extremely toxic derivative, carfentanil.

However, Det Insp Twiggs says some addicts are now purposely searching out the drug for a stronger hit.

“It’s highly addictive and users are realising the hit it gives them, so we have information that people are seeking this stuff out,” he added.

“People realise fairly quickly, there’s a strong difference between street-level heroin and when it’s mixed with fentanyl.

“Drug users, particularly heroin users, find their own level in terms of tolerance but my advice would be do not try this because this really is playing Russian roulette.”