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Fake pills laced with fentanyl being sold on streets in SJC

The San Joaquin County Metropolitan Narcotics Task Force is warning the public that some of the pills that are circulating on the street are counterfeit and laced with a deadly amount of fentanyl.

And taking, they warn, could be deadly.

On Friday the multi-agency task force that works to eradicate narcotics from the streets of San Joaquin County issued an alarming bulletin about the frequency at which they have seen counterfeit pills popping up in drug overdose deaths that are being investigated by the group.

The pills, which are blue in color and stamped on one side with the letter “M” and the number “30” on the opposite side, are being advertised and sold as oxycodone hydrochloride but lab tests conducted by the California Department of Justice have concluded that the pills are fentanyl that are pressed with a binding agent such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or caffeine.

Over the Christmas holidays, two people in Tracy overdosed after being exposed to the counterfeit pills, and another case was later linked to them in Lodi. The task force believes that there have been even more overdoses in San Joaquin County linked to the pills, but that information has not been made available to law enforcement or to the hospitals that have processed the victims when they arrived for treatment.

While the pills appear similar in marking – including the manufacturer mark and the “30” to represent the 30 mg dosage of the active ingredient thought to be contained in the pills – the task force noted in a release that they are often poorly made and include “nicks” that are not commonly found in pharmacy-dispensed medication.

Because of the widespread use of opiate painkillers and the danger associated with that class of drug – respiratory suppression is a serious side effect of high doses of that specific medication – first responders have resorted to carrying live-saving Narcan to help reverse the effects of overdose immediately. The task force urges first responders to still report the overdose to law enforcement so that it can be tracked, and the substance can be determined to see if the reach of counterfeit pills has gone farther than previously believed.

Earlier this week the Manteca Police Department issued a fact sheet that pointed out that from 1999 to 2017, more than 700,000 people in the United States have died of an opiate-related overdose. On average, 130 Americans a day die as a result of abusing both street-level and prescription-strength opiates, and the number of deaths is increasing every year – rising six-fold from 1999 to 2017. The sheet encouraged people to properly dispose of their unused medications to prevent diversion and potential drug abuse.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.