NPR, February 16, 2017
Bill Chappell

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The drug is so strong and deadly, it's been researched as a chemical weapon of warfare; police officers are warned to handle it with extreme care. The opioid carfentanil is 10,000 times more potent than morphine — but until now, it hasn't been a controlled substance in China, where producers have been exporting it abroad.

U.S. officials are welcoming the news that China will now list carfentanil as a controlled substance, putting it in the same category as fentanyl — the less powerful opioid of which carfentanil is a variant. Fentanyl was blamed for the death of Prince last year.

Potent and addictive, fentanyl and carfentanil have played deadly roles in the opioid epidemic that has swept the U.S. and killed thousands of Americans in recent years, as the drugs have been mixed into heroin or used to create an alternative to that less powerful drug. From 2010 to 2014, officials say, heroin overdoses more than tripled in the U.S. — and part of the problem, they add, is that drug users may not realize how strong the adulterated drugs are. [...]

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