KENT COUNTY, Mich.-- It's highly addictive and cheaper than the competition.
Heroin use is hitting epidemic proportions in West Michigan, but what's even more alarming is what it's being cut with. Carfetanil is built to take down large game, like elephants, but now it's being added to heroin for a bigger buzz.
Nationwide, heroin use has tripled since 2007. It's now being cut with dangerous additives like fentanyl and carfetanil.
"Heroin addicts are always looking for something bigger," explained Capt. Bruce Ivie with the Detective Bureau of the Kent County Sheriff's Department.
For an addict, it's a lifeline.
"I used to feel well," said Sarah VanFleteren, a recovering addict and recovery coach at the Red Project in Grand Rapids. "For me personally, it's definitely been a journey and it is definitely a struggle. I've been to seven rehabs. It worked pretty well for a very long time until it stopped working. It created more consequences than it did benefits."
In 2016, those consequences moved further away from a lifeline and closer to a death sentence.
"I believe we've had 25 heroin overdoses," said Capt. Ivie. "This is just the Kent County Sheriff's Department, this isn't the entire county of Kent. Eleven of those cases have resulted in death. It could be a huge health epidemic that we have to watch our for, a trend that's coming our way."
It's a trend that's tricking users: first it was fentanyl, now it's carfetanil.
"It's 100 times more powerful than fentanyl," said Ivie. "It's 10,000 times more powerful than morphine."
Carfetanil is used as a tranquilizer for large game like elephants.
"A lot of people that are seasoned heroin users who think they're getting normal heroin are instead getting it cut with carfetanil or fetanyl," said Ivie. "That's where we could potentially see a lot more overdoses in the future."
With one confirmed case tied to this kind of cut and two others suspected, authorities warn life-saving measures they can take may not be enough.
"Normally one dose of Narcan will usually pretty quickly revive somebody if it's not too late that's overdosed on heroin," said Ivie. "With fetanyl or carfetanil it could take two, three, maybe four doses and maybe that wouldn't even work."
Police say the powerful additive is being ordered online from China. The drugs are readily available and made in super labs. Police say the solution is cracking down on local dealers; 32 dealers have been arrested so far this year.
"When we get these dealers we want to know where did they get it from," said Ivie. "When we find their dealer we want to know where they got it from and work towards the bigger fish."
That 'bigger fish' isn't safe overseas. Capt. Ivie says they're working with Chinese authorities to keep carfetanil out of the wrong hands and off shipments where they shouldn't go.
Local authorities are getting some help in the fight with testing suspected drugs that are seized. Samples are sent to the D.E.A for testing to see if they test positive for carfetanil.