By Andy Sheehan

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WASHINGTON, Pa. (KDKA) — The Washington County coroner’s office says at least two deaths in the Washington area so far this year have been connected to carfentanil.

It’s hard to imagine just how powerful and lethal the drug is. If deadly fentanyl is 50 times more powerful that heroin, carfentanil is said to be 100 times more powerful than that.

“They use that to tranquillize elephants, so for human consumption, it’s just pretty much immediately fatal,” Erich Curnow, with the Washington Drug and Alcohol Commission, said.

In Washington County, there are two confirmed fatal overdoses from carfentanil, and the coroner suspects a third person died of it as well. District Attorney Gene Vittone immediately warned the public.

“So that people are aware of the fact that this extremely toxic fentanyl analogue, carfentanil, is out there in the supply. We’ve confirmed it,” Vittone said.

The DA will not release the names of the dead, but while most overdoses on fentanyl and carfentanil involve the use of opioids like heroin, these two confirmed cases showed the presence of cocaine.

“The cocaine was kind of surprising because we don’t know if these people purchased cocaine and [carfentanil] was in the cocaine, or if they were using cocaine and then they used [carfentanil] and they died,” Vittone said.

But Vittone says that only underscores the danger of buying any drug on the street.

“You don’t know what you’re getting. There’s no quality control, and you’re literally gambling with your life,” he said.

Curnow hopes those who’ve had a near brush with death use that moment to get help.

“We sometime have a small window of opportunity where we can reach the person who’s been trapped by their addiction and get them to commit to going to treatment at that point,” he said.

State Police investigators believe the carfentanil is still out there, and they’d like to get it and those who are selling it off the streets as soon as possible.

The Washington Drug and Alcohol Commission can be reached at 1-800-247-8379.

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