Skip to main content

County Officials Warn Of Fentanyl Deaths In Ocean Beach And Pacific Beach

A reporter holds up an example of the amount of fentanyl that can be deadly a...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: A reporter holds up an example of the amount of fentanyl that can be deadly after a news conference about deaths from fentanyl exposure, at DEA Headquarters in Arlington Va., Tuesday, June 6, 2017.

County law enforcement and health officials warned residents Friday of three deaths this past weekend caused by fentanyl-laced cocaine in Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach.

"This is deadly. It’s unintentional. Nobody takes this and wants to die, but it’s happening," said DEA Special Agent in Charge Karen Flowers, who is investigating the deaths. "People need to be aware that it can happen to them."

In addition to the three deaths, two others overdosed on fentanyl-laced cocaine and survived. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that can be anywhere from 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Officials could not divulge where the victims got the drugs and no arrests have been made.

"Here in San Diego County, the biggest problem we have with fentanyl is counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl," Flowers said. "And all of these are lethal with the addition of fentanyl because the consumer doesn't know there's fentanyl in it."

RELATED: Fentanyl-Laced Cocaine Becoming A Deadly Problem Among Drug Users

CDC reports show that fentanyl overdoses are increasing across the United States as part of the country's larger opioid epidemic. That trend includes San Diego, according to county health officials; the county received 81 reports of fatal fentanyl-related overdoses in 2017, double the number of reported deaths in 2016.

"We have seen a steady increase in fatal overdose cases over the years where fentanyl has been added to opiates,'' said Dr. Glenn Wagner, the county's chief medical examiner. "But now we're seeing an emerging pattern of cases where fentanyl is unexpectedly added to other drug combinations. It's a new, deeply concerning trend."

Drug Enforcement Administration agents have reportedly seized fentanyl-laced narcotics across San Diego and Imperial counties.

"It's all about the money," Flowers said. "It starts with Mexican cartels manufacturing the product, whether it be cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, or a counterfeit pill. And using the active ingredient of fentanyl. It's cheap, it's easy to manufacture and the profit potential is huge."

"My concern is people don’t know what they’re taking," Flowers added. "There’s no way to tell. And because it’s not developed in a laboratory in sterile circumstances, they don’t know the quantity or quality of what they’re taking."

RELATED: Border Patrol Seizes Largest-Ever Stash Of Fentanyl Pills At US-Mexico Port

"These cases show the deadly and unknown nature of drugs that are being sold on the street,'' said Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer. "If you or someone you know is in need of drug treatment, please get help."

San Diego County residents seeking drug treatment can contact the county's Access and Crisis Line 24/7 at (888) 724-7240.

County law enforcement and health officials are warning residents of three deaths this past weekend caused by fentanyl-laced cocaine in Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach. Two others overdosed but survived.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.