In less than a week, 6 deaths and 22 overdoses have occurred in northern California. A powerful drug made synthetically and illegally sold, is responsible, said official Laura McAsland, spokeswoman for the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services.
Those affected believed they were taking Norco, a prescription painkiller made up of acetaminophen and hydrocodone. “In reality, they’re taking fentanyl which is much, much, much more potent,” Ms. McCasland said. Some overdose survivors told that they purchased the pills from strangers, neighbors, or friends, reports The New York Times.
The fentanyl that was produced in Sacramento County looked similar to Norco. Fentanyl is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and up to 100 times more powerful than morphine. A small amount can kill, according to the Times.
These Sacramento County cases are part of a larger drug epidemic where the use of prescription painkillers are out of control. Special agent John J. Martin, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, San Francisco field division stated that there has been an increase in fentanyl seizures. The fentanyl is being made in China and shipped to Mexico. Martin’s office covers 48 California counties and he stated that the large increase in deaths and overdoses attributed to fentanyl were “a first for his office.”
According to Ms. McCasland, those who overdosed in Sacramento County were equally divided between men and women, ranging in age from 24 to 59, the Times reports.