A search of a Bloomington home last week turned up the largest illegal supply of fentanyl ever recovered in Minnesota, authorities say.
The Hennepin County sheriff says the drug, which was in liquid form, amounted to nearly three-quarters of a gallon and had an estimated street value of $275,000.
The sheriff's office says the county's Violent Offender Task Force is working with Bloomington police on the case. They said last Thursday's search turned up marijuana, illegal prescription pills, and several guns in addition to the fentanyl.
Tuesday's statement included no information about arrests or charges.
Deadly increase in fentanyl abuse
The sheriff's office says last year Hennepin County saw nine people die of fentanyl overdoses. This year that number had already doubled to 18 by the end of September.
Fentanyl – like heroin and morphine – is a painkiller in the opioid family. But while heroin is made from poppies that grow naturally, fentanyl is a synthetic drug made from chemical ingredients combined in a lab. And it's far more potent than any other painkiller.
The Drug Enforcement Administration said last year fentanyl is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine and 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin.
How strong is that? CNN reports a dose the size of three grains of sand is enough to kill a person.
Used to lace other drugs
An autopsy found fentanyl was the painkiller that caused Prince's fatal overdose at Paisley Park in Chanhassen last April. Doctors had reportedly prescribed painkillers for Prince.
As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year, fentanyl has become popular with narcotics dealers in the last few years. That's largely because they can stretch their drug supply a lot farther by diluting heroin or cocaine and lacing it with a little fentanyl.
But fentanyl-laced drugs hitting the streets has been "an enormous game changer," Carol Falkowski, who has been tracking Twin Cities drug abuse trends for decades, told CNN.
Fentanyl in liquid form, like the kind found in the Bloomington raid last week, is apparently a new trend.
The Canadian journal Macleans says fentanyl raises new worries for police officers because it's so strong it can be absorbed into the body through the skin.
Adam Brown, a police detective constable in Hamilton, Ontario, told the magazine: “I was never afraid that if I got a little of this stuff on my skin that I would ever be worried about death – that was never a concern for me, now it is.”