The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the deadly opioid fentanyl is showing up in cocaine and meth. It’s 50 times stronger than heroin, and L.A. police suspect that its inclusion in street cocaine may already be responsible for three recent deaths.
L.A. police discovered three dead men — Gabriel Dirzo, Gilbert Valenzuela Jr. and Robert Ramirez — in Dirzo’s apartment.The L.A. County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner determined that the three men had been drinking and doing what they thought was cocaine.
Dr. Gary Tsai, medical director of the county health department’s substance abuse prevention and control division said the cocaine was either pure fentanyl or laced with it.
He thinks that because hours before they were discovered, Dirzo had talked to his younger brother on the phone.
While cocaine can be dangerous, Tsai says, it doesn’t usually result in “instantaneous overdose deaths” like what Dirzo experienced. Although, it’ll be weeks before a toxicology report confirms whether fentanyl caused the men’s deaths.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid similar to morphine, but 50 to 100 times more powerful. It’s often used to treat chronic pain in people after surgery. It’s usually administered via patch, lozenge or injection, but it can be produced inexpensively in drug laboratories.
While lower doses of the drug can produce a euphoric high, higher doses can cause people to stop breathing. The drug has long been mixed with heroin, causing thousands of deaths and becoming the drug often named in the U.S. “opioid crisis.”
Authorities in San Francisco say that several people have recently died after consuming fentanyl mixed in with meth, counterfeit Xanax (sedatives) and crack cocaine. They’ve also heard reports of it being mixed in the euphoric drug MDMA.
Experts say they don’t know whether dealers are purposely or accidentally adding fentanyl to their drugs. It could be deliberate as it’s cheap to manufacture and highly addictive.