Only 20 micrograms of it will kill a human. One dose will tranquilize a 10,000-pound elephant.
Carfentanil, a deadly opioid drug believed to be a hundred times more toxic than fentanyl, is now considered a potential threat to national security.
“Could it be weaponized? Yeah, it could be weaponized,” said Peter Ostrovsky, Assistant Special Agent in Charge at Homeland Security Investigations in the U.S. “Because so little can affect so many, there’s just a greater concern.”
Carfentanil is as destructive as nerve gas and it’s now on American’s doorstep.
“It is a concern not just for the willful illicit drug user, but it’s a public safety concern for uninvolved third parties.”
He said the concern over carfentanil is that so little of it can affect so many.
“Even if you look back at 9-11, there were initial concerns about aerial spraying of chemical and biological war-type agents potentially used by terrorists,” he said. “This is no different. This is just a new substance to put in the delivery mechanism.”
A carfentenil attack is not just a fictional threat as the drug has already been weaponized.
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In 2002, Russian soldiers pumped aerosolized carfentanil into a Moscow theatre where Chechen militants were holding more than 800 hostages. They meant to incapacitate them, but the strength of the drug ended up killing over 120 innocent civilians.
ISIS, with an army of 40,000, is already producing mustard gas and using it in Iraq and Syria, said former U.S. Defence Department weapons expert Andy Weber.
“We need to pay attention and make sure ISIS doesn’t get their hands on this type of substance,” Weber said.
“It’s technically not easy to aerosolize fentanyl. It would take a certain level of sophistication but ISIS is such a large group, we’re talking about totals of 40,000 people, so among a pool that large it’s likely they would have people with the requisit technical expertise.”
“They do have sophisticated chemists,” added Weber. “They know how to handle dangerous materials without harming themselves and they know how to deliver it. So that is a very concerning situation.”
“This whole issue of what I call Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism is something we need to focus a lot of attention and effort on.”
Carfentanil has already been found in Canada, where investigations in Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg were launched over recent shipments of the drug. One kilogram of carfentanil was also recently seized by Vancouver border agents after being mailed from China.
READ MORE: RCMP, China to work together to curb flow of fentanyl into Canada
One kilogram is enough to produce 50 million doses, or as Calgary RCMP Insp. Allan Lai puts it, 50 million deaths.
It’s more than enough to kill every Canadian, and sources tell Global News the RCMP is petrified carfentanil will be used in a terrorism attack at home. RCMP and CSIS have not responded to our requests for an interview.
READ MORE: 14 carfentanil deaths in 3 months spurs opioid warning in Alberta
Terrorism experts are now pushing the federal government to tighten drug laws with harsher sentences, with automatic jail time for carfentanil possession.
“It should be treated as a weapon,” said Simon Fraser University terrorism expert Andre Gerolymatos. “It’s not marijuana, it’s not selling somebody a joint.”
Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says his government is watching “very carefully” but there is not currently any evidence carfentanil will be used as a terrorist weapon here. “Every possible threat is always monitored,” he said.
Public safety critic Tony Clement said he has seen no official commentary on the issue from the Government of Canada.
“We’ve got to treat this as a grave concern,” he said.
“This is another avenue for a mass attack, a mass terrorist operation by terrorists who are antithetical to our way of life. And so, as the technology changes and as different types of attacks are possible, I think we have to keep with that and develop plans to make sure that is not successful.”
“It’s like the worst disaster that we’ve ever seen on the movie screens.”