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Elephant sedative carfentanil blamed for rash of West Virginia overdoses

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - An Ohio man was accused of distributing an elephant sedative to people, which, according to federal prosecutors, resulted in about two dozen overdoses in a West Virginia city.

On Monday, prosecutors charged 22-year-old Bruce Lamar Griggs of Akron, Ohio, with distributing carfentanil and fentanyl, local news organizations reported.

Addict describes overdosing on carfentanil

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, carfentanil is an elephant sedative that is 100 times more potent than fentanyl. Fentanyl is an opioid used as part of anesthesia to help prevent pain.

In September, the DEA issued a public warning about the health and safety risks of carfentanil after overdose cases began popping up in Ohio and elsewhere. As America’s opioid problem worsens, authorities have had trouble managing the drug in the community at large, which is readily available online for sale by Chinese manufacturers.

“DEA, local law enforcement and first responders have recently seen the presence of carfentanil, which has been linked to a significant number of overdose deaths in various parts of the country,” the DEA’s release stated. “Improper handling of carfentanil, as well as fentanyl and other fentanyl-related compounds, has deadly consequences.”

Griggs was charged Aug. 26 with heroin distribution in connection with 27 overdoses that resulted in two deaths on Aug. 15 in Huntington, West Virginia. Many of the overdoses were in an area surrounding one apartment complex in the city, leading officials to believe the cases were connected. 

Prosecutors also filed a motion for a guilty plea hearing on Monday. The date for the hearing has yet to be released.

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