Elephant tranquilizer carfentanil linked to 5 more overdose deaths in Minnesota

Ten people in the Twin Cities metro have now died of overdoses related to carfentanil, a powerful opioid that is used as a tranquilizer for elephants and other large animals.

Authorities began warning people about carfentanil in March after it was revealed as the source of five overdose deaths. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner has now linked five additional overdose deaths to the drug. 

Carfentanil is 100 times more potent than fentanyl, the drug that killed Prince, and 10,000 times more potent than morphine. A small amount of carfentanil is enough to incapacitate an elephant weighing several thousand pounds.

The drug usually comes mixed with or labeled as heroin or fentanyl, according to law enforcement officials. It can come in several forms, including powder, blotter paper, tablets, patches and spray.

The most recent overdose victims mixed carfentanil with heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine, among other drugs. 

But, carfentanil is a danger to more than simply the users. It can also harm first responders and law enforcement exposed to the drug because some forms can be absorbed through the skin or accidentally inhaled.