East Bay health officials issue counterfeit pills warning

Health officials say people are buying fake pain medications laced with a dangerous drug. It’s a nationwide problem that’s made its way to the Bay Area.

Contra Costa County health officials say four people have recently overdosed on counterfeit prescription pills. In three of those cases, the patients were found to have Fentanyl in their system. No deaths have been reported.

Fentanyl is an extremely powerful and sometimes deadly drug. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate, more powerful than morphine and 100 times stronger than heroin.

EMS Medical Director and Deputy County Health Officer Dr. David Goldstein said part of the problem is that it is extremely difficult to tell the difference between real prescription pills and fake ones laced with Fentanyl.

“People are buying the pills on the street thinking they’re getting Hydrocodone or Norco and they in fact have Fentanyl,” he said. “They are getting a much, much stronger pain medicine than they are aware.”

The drug has been linked to 14 deaths in the Sacramento area and at least seven Bay Area overdoses where the people survived.

According a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a man and his girlfriend were treated at the Contra Costa Regional Medical center in March after overdosing on Fentanyl-laced pills. The report said the couple bought the drugs from a friend, thinking they were Norco pills.
“We're aware that people are using these medicines not as originally prescribed and they just need to know that these pills that look exactly the same are not the real thing. They're risking their life,” said Dr. David Goldstein, Medical Director with Contra Costa EMS.

The overdose symptoms include nausea, vomiting, confusion, dizziness, passing out and difficulty breathing. Ultimately, officials say you should never buy drugs that are not prescribed to you or not bought at a pharmacy.

If you think someone is having an overdose, call 911.