Street drugs spiked with a powerful painkiller that has killed nine people in the last eight days in the Sacramento area have been connected to two serious overdoses in Manteca and may be connected with one death,
Manteca Police responded on March 25 to the unattended death of a 20-year-old man in the 1100 block of South Union Road. Lt. Tony Souza said the death may have been the result of a combination of drugs and alcohol. In the case of a drug death it takes up to three weeks for a toxicology report from the coroner to determine whether it was related to the use of fentanyl that was the common thread in the nine confirmed deaths. Fentanyl overdoses are suspected to have stricken two other drug users in Manteca. The use of counterfeit Norco tablets bought for as little as $5 on the street nearly took the life of a 31-year-old woman in a Manteca motel in the 1700 block of East Yosemite Avenue shortly before 5 a.m. Friday. Manteca ambulance medics found the woman reportedly without a pulse due to a drug overdose. They brought her back to life before transporting her to an area hospital. Police units were also dispatched and arrived on the scene with ambulance personnel where the woman was administered “Naloxone” with her immediately responding, according to a police spokesman. Her reaction to the antidote indicated the possible presence of opiates in her system. She was later interviewed by police personnel at the hospital where she told officers she had taken Norco and an additional substance she believed to be Ecstasy. She was treated and later released from the hospital.
Manteca Police Sergeant Chris Mraz said that those who are stricken and quickly taken to a hospital after a fentanyl overdose can have their potentially fatal reactions reversed but those who are away from others and sleeping somewhere outside by themselves might just not wake up in the morning. He noted the dangerous on-the-street sales also occurred in the mid-1980s. Special Agent Casey M. Rettig of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) office in San Francisco has put out a public safety alert warning citizens of the use of counterfeit Norco hydrocodone tablets laced with fentanyl. The drugs have bene linked now to at least 40 overdoses in the greater Sacramento area.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid. It is an odorless substance considered to be 25 to 50 times more potent that heroin and 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. It is potentially lethal even in very low doses, according to the DEA alert. Overdose victims range in age between a18 and 59 with the victims split evenly between men and women.
Public health and law enforcement officials believe that the pills containing fentanyl were likely sold on the street under the guise of being legitimate hydrocodone. Additionally, the pills are marked to mimic the authentic hydrocodone product. However, the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services reports that test results show that some of the tested pills did not contain hydrocodone but rather fentanyl.
The hydrocodone painkiller gives the user an euphoric high. The drug is used sometimes to cut cocaine and meth and has been passed off as other drugs.
There were a record 28,647 deaths during 2014 in the United States from opioids. The United States Centers for Disease Control also reports that deaths from synthetic opioids — primarily fentanyl — doubled from 2013 to 2014 to 5,500 deaths.
The DEA urges the public not to take a prescription drug unless prescribed by a person’s doctor and obtained from a reputable pharmacy.