Pills that look like Xanax but contain the powerful opioid fentanyl have been linked to nine deaths in Pinellas County, Florida in recent weeks.
The pills are killing people within minutes, WFLA reports.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said, “You don’t have to take a handful of them. All you gotta do is take one, and you’re dead.”
Authorities do not know who is making the pills or where they are coming from. The pills are selling for $5 each, the article notes.
According to Dr. Raafat Hanna, an emergency room physician at Northside Hospital in Pinellas County, fentanyl is 80 to 100 times as strong as morphine and about 40 to 50 times more times as strong as street heroin. “It’s easy to get overdosed [sic] on a very small dose,” he said.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) this week warned the nation’s opioid epidemic has been exacerbated by the reemergence of the synthetic opioid fentanyl.
In its annual National Drug Threat Assessment, the agency noted fentanyl is usually mixed into heroin products or pressed into counterfeit prescription pills, sometimes without the users’ awareness, which often leads to overdose.
The DEA found that in 2014, approximately 129 people died every day as a result of drug poisoning and more than half of those were opioid or heroin related, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
“Sadly, this report reconfirms that opioids such as heroin and fentanyl – and diverted prescription pain pills – are killing people in this country at a horrifying rate,” DEA Acting Administrator Rosenberg said in a news release.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has found that a vast drug-distribution network that originates in China is feeding the deadly opioid fentanyl to the United States, Mexico and Canada.
The network trades not only in finished fentanyl, but related products that are subject to little or no regulation in China or elsewhere, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Some of these products are known as analogs, which are copies of fentanyl. Others include the chemical ingredients of fentanyl, as well as pill presses used to make the drug.
Fentanyl is an opioid legally prescribed for cancer treatment. It can be made illicitly, and is 25 to 50 times more potent than heroin.
Chemicals used to make fentanyl are unregulated in China, or by the United Nations agreements that police the global drug trade, the article notes. China prohibits the nonmedical sale of fentanyl and has added several fentanyl analogs to the...
Law enforcement officials say they are seeing increasing cases of the potent opioid fentanyl being sold as other painkillers, such as oxycodone or Percocet.
In Tennessee, officials say there have been two dozen cases in recent months of pills marked as oxycodone or Percocet that turned out to include fentanyl, according to the Associated Press.
Fentanyl is 25 to 40 times more powerful than heroin, the article notes. It is used for treatment of chronic pain in end-stage cancer patients.
San Francisco’s health department said several overdoses last summer were due to fentanyl that looked like Xanax.
Canada has issued warnings about fentanyl pills that look like oxycodone.
Federal agents arrested a man in suburban Cleveland in February after seizing more than 900 pills containing fentanyl that were marked as oxycodone tablets. Carole Rendon, acting U.S. Attorney in Cleveland, explained fentanyl is cheap to make, so dealers sell them as other...