The Florida Department of Law Enforcement warned Central Florida residents that they have found a “death pill” on the streets that has caused at least one death.
“In the past week, our FDLE laboratory in Orlando has seen several examples of counterfeit prescription painkillers which have contained a deadly concoction of fentanyl,” Special Agent Danny Banks said at a press conference April 5.
Fentanyl is an incredibly powerful opioid painkiller with about 100 times the potency of morphine. The drug has led to increases in emergency department visits and overdose deaths across the U.S. since 2012, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The FDLE is warning Floridians that drug dealers may not know they’re selling pills laced with fentanyl. So far, the drugs have been found in Osceola and Brevard counties, and some of the confiscated pills have been 100 percent fentanyl.
“The message we clearly want to deliver to our community right now is, if you are dependent upon or you are experimenting with prescription painkillers, please make sure you are getting those painkillers from a licensed pharmacy,” Banks said.
Fentanyl has been on law enforcement’s radar for several years. The drug was involved in 397 deaths in Florida in 2014, according to the 2014 Medical Examiners Commission report.
From 2013 to 2014, deaths involving fentanyl increased by 84.2 percent and deaths caused by fentanyl increased 114.6 percent across the state.
Central Florida medical examiner districts identified almost 300 deaths involving the drug in 2014:
In the first three months of 2016, Orange County law enforcement reported finding increasing amounts of heroin laced with fentanyl, which is about 50 times more potent than heroin, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Counterfeit oxycodone and Xanax pills containing fentanyl were found in the Tampa area, and at least nine overdose deaths in Tampa were linked to pills containing fentanyl, according to the Sentinel.
On April 5, FDLE was most concerned with Central Florida youth getting ahold of the dangerous pills.
“Mark my words, this death pill will be in the hands of our high school-aged students in Central Florida,” Banks said. “It is bad, bad stuff that is killing people, and it is here right now.”
A total of 1.8 percent of all Florida students reported past-30-day misuse of prescription pain relievers in the 2015 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey.
“Perhaps these pills may be already in the hands of some of our central Florida high school students and thus the importance of this message,” Banks said.
Law enforcement encourages people who have obtained illegal prescription pain relievers to turn them in to a number of prescription drug drop-off locations in the area.
The locations do not accept sharp instruments such as needles.
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