MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A powerful new opioid called carfentanil has made its way to Minnesota.
The drug is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl, according to Hennepin County.
It has claimed 10 lives so far this year just in Hennepin County.
Hennepin County medical examiner Dr. Andrew Baker explains carfentanil is now being sold on the streets of Minnesota as a substitute for Heroin, but it’s much more powerful than heroin and the painkiller fentanyl; in fact, it’s an animal tranquilizer.
“We didn’t start seeing it here in the metro until 2017,” Baker said. “They maybe precursors in the making of fentanyl, they may be byproducts of fentanyl, but virtually none of these are approved for human use.”
In recent years, Baker said the M.E.’s office has seen an alarming increase in heroin and opioid deaths.
Baker said tests to determine the cause of death from new exotic drugs like carfentanil can take several weeks, which is a setback for law enforcement trying to investigate where the illegal drugs are coming from.
Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said public education and resources to fight the opioid epidemic have to increase in order to decrease the number of overdose deaths.
“There may be more out there already,” Stanek said about carfentanil. “We look and try to figure out where it is coming from but it’s really tough.”
Baker and Stanek agree the opioid epidemic is a problem across the state and impacts every Minnesotan.
“Looking at our last five cases, we have Plymouth, Maple Grove, and Eden Prairie represented in addition to Minneapolis,” Baker said. “It is people you know in the community you live of all ages and backgrounds.”
There is also concern about first responders coming in contact with the drug.
Stanek said they carry a remedy called Narcan, which is meant to counteract overdose from opioids.
But, the sheriff said they don’t know yet if Narcan is strong enough to combat the highly lethal carfentanil.