This segment originally aired Oct. 17, 2016, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.
Overdoses from heroin and other opioids now kill an average of 78 Americans every day. VICE News correspondent Dexter Thomas looked at the growing risks of synthetic opioids by visiting an Ohio county that’s been experiencing an average of 20 to 25 overdoses a day.
The Harris County coroner told him the recent overdose spike is likely attributable to carfentanil, a veterinary drug used in elephant tranquilizers. And a DEA chemist said the synthetic opioid is so potent that 2 milligrams could kill 100 people.
But a Cincinnati heroin addict said he’s willing to risk exposure to carfentanil, which dealers are using to cut heroin. “It worries me a lot, you know, knowing that it’s out there,” Brandon Harris said. “[But] as an addict, it’s worth the risk.”
The DEA confirms carfentanil use is spreading and has been found in six states so far.