Minnesota is reeling under the effects of one of the most dangerous strains of synthetic opioids — carfentanil, which is causing several overdose deaths in the state.
Carfentanil, a deadly elephant tranquilizer, is used by doctors to immobilize large animals like elephants for surgery. This opioid has reared its ugly head in the state and has reportedly killed five people.
The drug reportedly originates in China, and is 100 times stronger than fentanyl and a whopping 10,000 times more potent than morphine.
How Did Carfentanil Reach The United States?
The drug, according to investigators, may have been brought to the United States by drug cartels, dark web sites, and other methods. It is unclear how the carfentanil batch made its way to Minnesota.
It could be a one-time incident and investigators believe that someone perhaps, got hold of carfentanil online and accidentally exposed others to the deadly drug.
How Deadly Is Carfentanil?
Doctors claim that two small specks of carfentanil are enough to kill a person.
"For example, an 8,000 pound elephant can be incapacitated by just two milligrams of Carfentanil. Using [opioids] alone is much more dangerous than it may have been in the past," noted Jon Cole, the Medical Director of Minnesota Poison Control System.
The elephant tranquillizer has reportedly killed people aged between 23 years to 43 years in Minneapolis, Apple Valley, and Faribault. It seems that the victims were unaware that the synthetic heroin had traces of the dangerous drug.
Out of the five carfentanil-related deaths, which were reported between Jan. 30 and Feb. 17, three occurred in Minneapolis. Five more drug overdose deaths in the state are also believed to be linked to carfentanil, but no clear evidence has been discovered.
Apart from Minnesota, carfentanil is also suspected to have reached New York City. According to police officials, the potent opioid was being sold by an infamous local street gang at prices as low as $7 to $10 per dose.
According to Andrew Baker, the chief medical examiner for Dakota, Hennepin, and Scott counties, few labs can test the drug and it is very difficult to detect, which poses additional problems.
Steps Taken To Counter Drug Overdose
The fight to stop the rise of fentanyl and heroin overdose is being carried out for many years.
On March 29, President Donald Trump declared his plan to generate a national effort to counter the country's opioid crisis. Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, will lead the initiative.
To create awareness, many local police departments are conducting educational campaigns, as well as started "prescription-pill" discarding centers.
Both the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and Apple Valley Police Chief Jon Rechtzigel, cautioned the public, as well as opioid users, of the potential hazards of carfentanil. The national and local investigators are working to find the potential source of the elephant tranquilizer.