Chinese law could prevent spread of dangerous opioid

Posted at 11:28 PM, Mar 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-01 23:28:00-05

A law in China could play a major role in keeping a dangerous drug out of the hands of western New Yorkers. 

The Chinese government, effective March 1st, made it significantly more difficult to produce carfentanil. Its an opioid, often used at zoos to tranquilize large animals.

So far, in Erie County, carfentanil has not been positively identified. The plan is to keep it that way.

The people analyzing drugs confiscated in Erie County hope the new regulations work. The forensic chemists at the Erie County Central Police Service lab are the first to identify any new drugs in the county. They say they're seeing more and more different compounds found in the areas heroin.

Furanyl-fentanyl, we're seeing mixed with fentanyl. We're seeing it mixed with something called 047700, said Michelli Schmitz, a forensic chemist.

In 2014, 90% of heroin the chemists at the Erie County lab analyzed was just heroin. So far, in 2017, only 23% of opioids analyzed there have been just heroin. Meaning they're finding more fentanyl and fentanyl derivatives, including butyryl-fentanyl.

We had no idea what it was, said Schmitz. Many of these substances weren't controlled. Nobody had heard of them. 

Until 2015, butyryl-fentanyl was perfectly legal in western New York and the United States. Schmitz and her team were some of the first to recognize that problem. They worked with the DEA to help make it a schedule one drug in 2016. 


If a new drug, like a carfentanil, were to make it to western New York, the scientists at the Erie County Central Police Service lab would be the first to know.