Authorities say the fentanyl bust is one of the biggest in US history.
Authorities in Lemon Grove, California say they’ve pulled 14 million lethal doses of fentanyl off the streets of San Diego County.
Three people have been indicted after a lengthy DEA investigation led authorities to find 44.14 kilograms of fentanyl in a suspect’s home, federal prosecutors announced Monday (June 19).
Each have been charged with possession of fentanyl with intent to distribute. Fentanyl is blamed for fueling the rising opioid overdose rate across the United States. In most cases, fentanyl is added to heroin to boost the drug’s potency, but it’s also turned up in cocaine overdoses, some of them fatal.
And most recently, Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, the coroner for Hamilton County, Ohio, reported that they’ve even come across cannabis laced with fentanyl.
Sammarco urged Ohioans to be wary of the contents of their street drugs. “Essentially, the message we’ve tried to get out there is if you are using any form of street drugs, count on them having some form of synthetic opioid mixed in,” she said during a press conference Monday.
Ohio has been called the “ground zero” of America’s opioid epidemic, for being one of the hardest-hit states by the drug crisis. As of this month, there have already been about 300 suspected opioid overdose deaths this year in Hamilton County. In all of 2016, there were 403 confirmed opioid overdose deaths.
Fentanyl is also made to resemble prescription pills like the anti-anxiety drug Xanax and painkiller Norco.
This month, six members of a drug trafficking ring operating out of a Utah basement were busted for producing fake prescription drugs using the potent opioid.
According to the Department of Justice, the group would purchase fentanyl from China and then use pill presses, dyes, stamps and binding agents to make them resemble oxycodone and anti-anxiety medication. Upon a search of the home of 27-year-old Aaron Shamo, police seized 500,000 counterfeit pills, guns, and more than $1 million in cash.
Fake pills have led to more than a few deaths. Last April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning to the public about counterfeit pills after 14 people in California died after ingesting Norco purchased off the black market.
Norco is an opioid pain medication for treating moderate to severe pain, and contains hydrocodone and acetaminophen. But the black market replicas contained fentanyl, promethazine, acetaminophen, and small amounts of cocaine, according to reports.