Opioid Overdoses from Fake Pills

September 30, 2019

Fentanyl is a very powerful opioid drug — 80-100 times more powerful than morphine — and exposure to even small amounts can cause overdose and death. The County Medical Examiner has reported 44 opioid deaths* from January 1, 2019 to August 31, 2019. Of the 44 deaths, 11 have involved fentanyl, including those of a 15 and 16-year-old. Several of these deaths have been linked to these fake pills containing the chemical fentanyl, made to look like a 30 mg oxycodone prescription pill. People who took these pills thinking they were taking oxycodone were unaware that they were taking lethal doses of fentanyl.

Latest information about fentanyl

Past advisories about fentanyl

What are fake pills?

Many opioid pills are now made by counterfeiting organizations. These pills are not prescribed, stolen, or resold by or from verified pharmaceutical companies, and there is no connection between their appearance and their ingredients. They are fake pills made to look like real prescription medications.

No one should take a pill that was not obtained directly from a pharmacy. Pills given by a friend or bought from others also should not be taken. Doing so could have deadly consequences.

What is being done?

The District Attorney and multiple law enforcement agencies across the county discovered that this fentanyl-containing fake pill may be in wide circulation around the county and state and have seized large quantities from multiple locations across the county. The Public Health Department has alerted healthcare providers. The District Attorney is working with the Public Health Department and other agencies to create a rapid response team.

Because two of the deaths occurred in teenagers, the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department wants to ensure that educators and others who work with adolescents and young adults are aware of the fake drugs and know what to look for. Public Health is working with partners on communication efforts to inform the public of the threat posed by these fake pills.


*These numbers are expected to change as the Medical Examiner continues to receive toxicology reports on other open cases.


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