Deadly weekend overdoses of cocaine laced with fentanyl prompt warning

Five people overdosed — including three who died — last weekend after taking cocaine laced with fentanyl in two beach communities, authorities said Friday as they warned that more of the deadly drug may still be on the street, and not just in cocaine.

Officials would not say when or where the fentanyl-laced drugs were sold or bought. Authorities are still investigating.

But in giving the warning, District Attorney Summer Stephan said officials are “seeing a a dangerous trend of drug dealers and cartels cutting various drugs with fentanyl.”

“The public needs to be aware of the danger of using any controlled substance, but specifically quantities of cocaine that are currently on the street in San Diego that may be laced with fentanyl,” Stephan said.

The warning issued Friday came from the District Attorney’s Office, the local office of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, San Diego police and public health officials as well as the county Medical Examiner’s Office.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, can be fatal even in small doses, and is said to be 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.

The deadly weekend overdoses happened in Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach, the District Attorney’s Office said. The victims ranged from 30 to 47 years old. Authorities found two of the victims in a home after family members grew concerned about lack of contact from one of them.

A DEA-led task force is investigating the deaths, and authorities noted that the danger of drugs laced with fentanyl is not limited to cocaine.

Throughout San Diego and Imperial counties, DEA agents are finding fentanyl mixed with cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and counterfeit pills that look like legitimate pharmaceutical tablets, DEA Special Agent in Charge Karen Flowers said in a statement.

Flowers noted that it is not possible to tell if a product contains fentanyl, other than through laboratory testing.

“Don’t let your loved ones find out the test results at the mortuary,” she said.

Dr. Glenn Wagner, the county’s chief medical examiner, said his office is seeing “a steady increase” in deaths where fentanyl was added to opiates.

“But now we’re seeing an emerging pattern of cases where fentanyl is unexpectedly added to other drug combinations,” Wagner said. “It’s a new, deeply concerning trend.”

In February, the Union-Tribune reported that, between 2000 and 2016, fentanyl had caused 267 deaths in San Diego County.

Last year, more than 81 people died in the region from a fentanyl overdose, more than twice what local officials saw the previous year, officials said.

teri.figueroa@sduniontribune.com

(760) 529-4945

Twitter: @TeriFigueroaUT

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