SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/KPIX) — With federal fentanyl seizures soaring over 155% so far this year in San Francisco, the Drug Enforcement Administration Monday issued a health warning over the lethal toll overdoses are taking in the Bay Area and across the country.
The DEA has seized an unprecedented number of counterfeit drugs containing a deadly substance. These fake drugs are the ones bought on the streets or passed out at parties that many young people attend.READ MORE: Giants Plan To Exercise Buster Posey's $22 Million Club Option If He Plays Next Year
“Don’t trust a pill just because it looks like it’s something you get from the doctor because there’s a possibility it’s a counterfeit pill and it can kill you,” said Dr. Anna Lembke, a Professor of Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine.
Thy pills look like prescription oxycodone or other opioid medication but the DEA says the fake pills are laced with fentanyl or meth because they’re cheaper to make.
“As fentanyl has infiltrated the heroin market and the counterfeit pill market, more people are dying because fentanyl is more deadly,” Dr. Anna Lembke added.
San Francisco’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner says that in July alone, 33 people died of accidental overdoses of fentanyl in the city.
Santa Clara County is also closely monitoring the number of recorded fentanyl deaths. In 2019, there were 27 recorded deaths. The toll rose dramatically in 2020 to 88 recorded deaths. In 2021, to date through early August, there have been 44 confirmed deaths.
In Sonoma County, a non profit organization is trying to help educate parents about the dangers of drub abuse. Leslie Nicholson is the the Director of RISK Sonoma.
“The worst times were at 3 in the morning when we didn’t know where he was and he was young. And it was really scary,” said Nicholson.
RISK Sonoma stands for resources, information, support and knowledge. Nicholson says she had nowhere to turn when her teenaged son was dealing with addiction. She hopes to share what she has learned from her experience. Nicholson says the best thing to do is to keep a clear line of communication open with your child and educate yourself about the dangers of illicit drugs.READ MORE: Santa Rosa Man Sentenced To 16 Years In Prison After 65 Pounds Of Meth Found At His Home
She adds, “We just want parents out there to know that they aren’t alone and we are there to support them.”
Monday’s safety alert was the first the agency has issued in the last six years and comes during a significant nationwide surge in counterfeit pills that are mass-produced by criminal drug networks in labs containing the deadly drug.
Counterfeit pills have been seized by DEA agents in every U.S. state in unprecedented quantities. More than 9.5 million counterfeit pills were seized so far this year, which is more than the last two years combined.
DEA laboratory testing also has revealed a dramatic rise in the number of counterfeit pills containing at least two milligrams of fentanyl, which is considered a lethal dose.
“The United States is facing an unprecedented crisis of overdose deaths fueled by illegally manufactured fentanyl and methamphetamine,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “Counterfeit pills that contain these dangerous and extremely addictive drugs are more lethal and more accessible than ever before. In fact, DEA lab analyses reveal that two out of every five fake pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose.”
Wade R. Shannon, DEA Special Agent in Charge of San Francisco, said counterfeit pills were flooding into the Bay Area.
“Counterfeit pills containing fentanyl have flooded our region,” Shannon said. “Laboratory testing indicates a dramatic increase in fake tablets containing a lethal dose. Taking a prescription drug not purchased from a licensed pharmacy is extremely dangerous and it may cost you your life.”
In the past year, DEA fentanyl seizures have more than doubled in the San Francisco. Year to date seizures show a 155% increase from the previous year.
DEA officials said the vast majority of counterfeit pills brought into the United States are produced in Mexico and China is supplying chemicals needed for the manufacturing fentanyl.MORE NEWS: 1 Dead, 2 Injured In Separate Falls During Phish Concert At Chase Center
Andrea Nakano contributed to this report.