Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer warned Sept. 27 of the rise in fentanyl-related deaths in the county, which has been occurring on an average daily basis.
“The number of fentanyl-related deaths in Orange County is skyrocketing,” Spitzer wrote Sept. 27 on Twitter. “Fentanyl is very cheap to produce, and its extreme potency allows dealers to maximize profits by lacing it into different narcotics. Don’t trust illicit pills! You never know what is in them and it only takes one 2 milligram dose of fentanyl to kill an adult.”
Recent data released by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department show that 37 people were poisoned by the drug in Orange County in 2016. There were 57 deaths in 2017, 134 deaths in 2018, and 165 deaths in 2019.
That number spiked to 432 people in 2020, making it more than once a day on average.
The issue of fentanyl-related poisonings is affecting far beyond Orange County, as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) warned Sept. 27 that there has been a significant nationwide surge in the availability and lethality of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine.
“We want to save lives and protect the community with this important awareness campaign,” said Los Angeles Field Division Special Agent in Charge Bill Bodner told City News Service.
“The sad reality is that these dangerous counterfeit pills made with fentanyl are having deadly consequences not just in Los Angeles, but nationwide. As individuals are being deceived and families are grieving the loss of loved ones, drug dealers profit,” he said. “It’s not the pill you
think it is.”
DEA Los Angeles Field Division confiscated approximately 1,217,000 counterfeit pills believed to contain fentanyl in all of 2020, and in just the first few months of 2021, obtained close to the same number at 1,230,000.
DEA officials issued a safety alert in order to raise awareness about the pills, which are reportedly mass-produced in labs by criminal drug networks and are then deceptively marketed as prescription drug pills, and are killing Americans at an unprecedented rate.
The agency also reported that more than 9.5 million counterfeit pills have been seized nationwide so far this year, which is more than the last two years combined, with the DEA seizing them in every state.
Additionally, when tested in labs, the pills are showing a “dramatic rise” in the number of pills containing at least two milligrams of fentanyl, which is a lethal dose. Officials noted that a deadly dose of fentanyl is small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil, showcasing how potent and deadly the drug really is.
Approximately 40 percent of pills containing fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose.
The fake pills are becoming more widely accessible and are becoming often sold on social media and e-commerce platforms, often made to look like oxycodone and hydrocodone.
City News Service contributed to this report.