A new and lethal drug has joined in on Minnesota’s dangerous opioid epidemic.
Carfentanil, a drug from China that is typically used as an elephant tranquilizer, has already been linked to five overdose deaths in Minnesota.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, carfentanil is a synthetic opioid that is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl, which itself is 50 times more potent than heroin.
Last October, six heroin overdoses were reported in Anoka County within a 12 hour period and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heroin use among people ages 18-25 has more than doubled in the past decade.
Since the beginning of the new year, carfentanil has been linked to three deaths in Minneapolis, and one death each in Dakota and Rice Counties.
So far, officials have yet to discover the drug in Anoka County but warn residents of the lethality of carfentanil and how it can be hiding in more common drugs.
“From time to time it has been known in other parts of the county to end up being mixed in heroin – it is always a possibility,” said Lt. Wayne Heath. “Microscopic mounts can be fatal.”
According to Lt. Heath, carfentanil can be ingested in a variety of ways including tablets, patches, sprays, powders and blotter paper.
“It is really up the imagination of the user,” he added.
Exposure to carfentanil produces signs and symptoms comparable to those of opioid toxicity and overdose including shallow or absent breathing, loss of consciousness, vomiting and heart failure.
Similar to heroin and other opioids overdoses, the administration of the antidote Naloxone is required to reverse the drugs effects.
“Dangerous synthetic opioids that find their way into our communities through the postal system – like carfentanil from China – continue to claim the lives of people in Minnesota and across the country,” said Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar in a statement. “In the face of these tragedies, we need to step up efforts to stop these synthetic drugs from coming across our borders from foreign countries in the first place.”
Contact Sam Lenhart at [email protected]