LIVERMORE (KPIX 5) — Police in Livermore faced with a pair of fatal teen overdoses in the space of two days were warning parents Tuesday to talk to their children about the dangers of experimenting with drugs bought on the street.
Police are worried that the two teens who died may have overdosed on fentanyl, though they can’t be certain about the cause of death until after toxicology reports are completed.
Authorities on Tuesday reached out to the press in order to spread the word to the public about the dangers of the powerful painkiller.
“It’s a huge problem,” said Livermore Police Lt. John Hurd. “When it happens here in Livermore, it gets everybody’s attention.”
Two Livermore teens were found dead of apparent opioid overdoses since the weekend, with one teen dying on Sunday and the other on Monday.
“It’s a problem. We know that it’s out there,” said Hurd. “We know that it is being mixed in different things; that people are using on the streets. We know people are dying throughout the nation.”
Deaths related to fentanyl are spiking in California and across the country as fights the grips of a rampant opioid epidemic. Fentanyl is a pain reliever frequently prescribed for cancer patients.
But on the street, it’s cheap to recreate and is being mixed with heroin, Xanax, and other drugs leading to an increase in deaths.
Addiction specialist Dr. Fred Von Stieff told KPIX 5 that dealers have begun lacing Xanex with fentanyl for a more potent high. The consequences can be deadly.
“We’ve seen the blue Xanax and kids thinking this is just another Xanex pill. But it has the fentanyl which is just like micrograms. That will kill you,” said Von Stieff.
Fentanyl is 100 times more powerful than morphine.
“These drug dealers are not chemists, so they’re just sprinkling them in there and you never know what you’re going to get,” said Dr. Von Stieff.
The California Department of Public Health says fentanyl is responsible for 373 opioid overdose deaths last year; a 57 percent increase since 2016.
On Tuesday, Pleasanton-based cartoon artist and Dilbert creator Scott Adams announced in a video posted on Periscope that his 18-year-old stepson Justin Miles — who lived in Livermore — was the teen who died of a fentanyl overdose on Sunday.
“Yesterday I got a call right after the 911 alert. The little boy I raised from the age of two was dead,” Adams said in the clip.
He said his stepson was trying to score Xanax and got fentanyl instead.
“The coroners found a fentanyl patch on his arm,” said Adams.
Police want parents to talk to their kids. They say kids need to know that dirty drugs are circulating in Northern California and that experimenting is not worth the risk.
“I think if we get the message out there — whether they get it through social media, the news or just the kids talking — they’re going to think twice before taking something they don’t know what it is,” said Hurd.
The rash of overdose deaths coincidentally has happened exactly a month after police were trained in the use of NarCan to help opioid overdose victims. All officers are now carrying NarCan for just such emergencies.