Drug that caused 3 overdoses was sold as 'Oxy,' but contained elephant tranquilizers

Northfield Police Department has issued a warning.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Drugs that caused three recent overdoses in a Minnesota city were found to have contained traces of the elephant tranquilizer carfentanil.

Northfield Police Department shared the lab results it got back from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension regarding illegal pills linked to the overdoses.

What's particularly worrying is that the pills were bought illegally and that the buyers were under the impression they were getting "Oxy" – a common nickname for opioid painkillers like Oxycontin, Oxycodone or Percocet.

The drugs had been manufactured to look like real Oxycodone 30mg pills, police say, but actually contained the powerful and deadly opioid carfentanil – as well as cocaine.

Carfentanil is up to 10,000 times more powerful than morphine and has been responsible for hundreds of fatal overdoses across the U.S.

Fortunately, the Northfield cases were nonfatal, with naloxone used to revive the victims, but carfentanil was behind at least 11 overdose deaths in three Twin Cities counties last year in the space of just a few months.

Joshua Edward Tarka, 22, has been charged with three counts of great bodily harm caused by distribution of drugs over the Northfield overdoses, as well as facing drugs charges.

The drug's potency

It comes as concern as the opioid crisis continues to grow, with carfentanil abuse being one of the most alarming new trends. It's a synthetic drug that is 10,000 times stronger than morphine, about 3,000 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than fentanyl (which has also been linked to a string of overdose deaths, including that of Prince).

Carfentanil, which is commonly used to drug elephants and other large animals, cannot be detected by routine drug and alcohol screenings, so samples need to be sent to a specialized lab for testing.

It's so powerful that first responders and police officers responding to a possible overdose can be harmed if they're exposed to the drug, which can be absorbed through the skin or accidentally inhaled.

It comes in several forms including powder, blotter paper, tablets, patches and spray, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

It only takes a very small amount – think a few grains of salt – to tranquilize an elephant, with officials noting the drug cannot be diluted enough to be safe for human consumption.

Next Up

coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2

Minnesota confirms America's 1st case of Brazil P.1 COVID strain

The strain was found in a Twin Cities metro resident who recently traveled to Brazil.

classroom

Gov. Walz announces education plan aimed at eliminating disparities

The plan covers seven categories, including closing the racial education gap and improving opportunities in rural Minnesota

Tax forms

Charges: Otsego cleaning business underreported sales

An Otsego woman is accused of owing more than $20,500 in sales tax, penalties and interest.

Screen Shot 2020-04-17 at 2.58.26 PM

Walz gives vaccine providers 3-day, 7-day deadlines to use doses

Those that don't use their allocation will be given less in the future.

purse

Border officers seize more than $550K in counterfeit designer goods

The shipments of fake goods were seized on Jan. 22.

Landfill plastic bags

4 Twin Cities landfills seek to expand capacity

This comes as the area's waste-to-energy facilities are operating at capacity.

Marcus Carr

3 of 10 finalists for NCAA's top point guard award have MN ties

Not a bad way to represent the State of... Basketball?

Justice, court

Minnesota grants unconditional pardon to grandmother facing deportation

Gov. Tim Walz says it's the first full pardon granted by the state in 35 years.

covid-19, vaccine

Minnesota changes vaccine appointment process, here's what to know

Walz also announced plans for a mass vaccination event at Xcel Energy Center.

covid-19, coronavirus

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Monday, Jan. 25

The latest figures from MDH have been released.

covid-19, vaccine

Minnesota health leaders say state's vaccine progress better than figures suggest

Minnesota is lagging behind national vaccination rates, but MDH leaders say this is because it's holding 2nd doses in reserve.

Related

Drug dealer gets 10 years for young man's fatal heroin overdose

Rodney Williams pleaded guilty to 3rd degree murder.

Update: 11th person fatally overdoses on elephant tranquilizer

Carfentanil is 10,000 times more powerful than morphine.

Screen Shot 2019-07-09 at 11.01.36 AM

Overdose deaths involving opioids, other drugs fell in MN last year

It's welcome news, but health officials say overdose rates are still at historic highs.

ambulance

Ten fatal overdoses in past 6 weeks reported in region of northern MN

Law enforcement agencies have issued a plea to the general public.

Bound for Minnesota again, another huge drug haul in North Dakota

It's the latest in a string of high-value drug busts on North Dakota roads.

Police: 3 possible drug overdoses at Mall of America

Police say they aren't sure if these were related to the six heroin overdoses in Anoka County on Saturday.

2 arrested and a bunch of drugs seized after overdoses in central MN

Responders saved the lives of both victims using Narcan.