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The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) on April 23 seized a massive quantity of the deadly opioid fentanyl—enough to kill millions of American citizens.
“ACSO detectives and their partners at the Narcotics Task Force recovered 92.5 pounds of illicit fentanyl at locations in Oakland and Hayward. That’s 42,000 grams that were headed for the streets of the Bay Area. This is a glimpse of the fentanyl epidemic,” the office said in an April 23 tweet. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine.
Drug trafficking rings usually distribute fentanyl by kilograms, the office stated. With one kilo having the potential to kill 500,000 people, 92.5 pounds is enough to kill around 20 million. At a street value of $100 per gram, the seized fentanyl’s total estimated value comes to around $4.2 million.
The seizure comes after the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) warned in early April of a surge in mass overdose events involving fentanyl. The DEA categorizes overdoses as mass events only when there are three or more such cases occurring during a short period of time within the same location.
In a letter to law enforcement agencies, DEA administrator Anne Milgram pointed out that there have been seven such mass overdose incidents since January in which 58 people died, with 29 involving fentanyl.
“Fentanyl is highly addictive, found in all 50 states, and drug traffickers are increasingly mixing it with other types of drugs—in powder and pill form—in an effort to drive up addiction and attract repeat buyers,” Milgram said in the April 6 letter.
On Dec. 27, a teenager was found dead in Rocklin, California, after consuming a counterfeit pill made of fentanyl. The teenager, 17-year-old Zachary Didier, was a talented musician and standout athlete. He had taken the pill assuming it was another drug.
“This is an important message to get out that this is a big game-changer,” the teenager’s father said to KCRA3. “And what may have been OK, or relatively safe in the ’70s and ’80s, or even the ’90s … This is a very different environment right now.”
To counter the spread of the opioid, some bars in the country have begun handing out free fentanyl test strips. These strips are “cheap” and “super easy to use,” Dr. Kathleen Clanon, medical director of Alameda County Health Care Services, said to Reuters. The organization is involved in the distribution of these fentanyl test strips.
“They are very sensitive, meaning that the comparison tests have shown that they are likely to show fentanyl if it’s there and I’m comfortable with that as a community test.”