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1st Overdose Death From Elephant Tranquilizer Carfentanil In Beaver Falls

BEAVER FALLS (KDKA) -- The Beaver County coroner confirms toxicology tests in a death at the end of November show it was Carfentanil that caused the person's overdose.

No more information about the individual is being released at this time and state police are handling the investigation.

10,000 times more powerful than morphine, Carfentanil is the most lethal drug added to the opioid epidemic.

"Even a drop of the medication could cause you to stop breathing and die," said Pittsburgh Zoo Veterinarian Dr. Alecia Hahn.

Carfentanil is intended to be used as an elephant tranquilizer.

The idea of using it as a cutting agent for heroin is horrifying to Dr. Alecia Hahn.

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"It terrifies me. Honestly. I take this very seriously. I respect this drug a lot. We use it when we need it and it is helpful for those situations but I would never use it in a way outside of that because I know that death is a real concern," she said.

Carfentanil is so powerful, an amount as small as a grain of sand is enough to end a life.

"This deadly mixture could be mixed into their heroin unknowingly at any time," DEA Special Agent in Charge David Battiste said.

In 2015, 852 people died from opioid overdoses in Western Pennsylvania.

"If you had a picture of all those folks, they look like me, they look like you. They look like our children. They look like our parents. It's everyone's problem," Battiste said.

Law enforcement and first responders are being warned to collect Carfentanil only under Hazmat conditions.

But part of the real danger involves not knowing whether one will encounter it.

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