LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Illegally manufactured Fentanyl is leaving a trail of destruction across California.
In Sacramento, for instance, 52 people just overdosed and 12 died from it.
“He was my rock. I loved that kid,” said Tim Fettig, whose 19-year-old son, Timmy, had it all: handsome, athletic, a loving family in a well-to-do Orange County neighborhood until he unknowingly put a powerful new form of drug up his nose.
“He made a poor decision and he wasn’t a user,” Fettig said. “He was just like every other kid out there who made a bad decision and it cost him his life.”
Fentanyl, a pharmaceutical opiate originally designed to alleviate severe pain, can be up to 100 times more powerful than morphine.
But now, drug cartels in China and Mexico are altering it by cutting it into cocaine and heroine and making it into pills that look like painkillers like Norco tablets.
Many users have no clue that just one pill or a few granules could kill them.
Timmy was one of the first people in Orange County to die from it and the problem has continued to grow since.
“I don’t think people take things serious until it hits home. It’s always gonna be someone else. It’s someone else. Well, you know what? It’s not someone else, it was my son,” said Fettig.
The Coroner’s case report describes how his son was found unresponsive on the couch. Detectives found a text on his phone that said: “Yo, you still looking for blo …”
There was also a “partially rolled up hundred dollar bill, credit card, and a faint line of white powdery residue,” according to the report.
Timmy, normally a good, responsible teen, thought he was experimenting with cocaine.
“Someone is not gonna know what they are getting. There is no way to know,” said Terry Baisz, a forensic scientist.
At the O.C. crime lab, scientists have been inundated recently with illegal Fentanyl, but visually identifying it is impossible. Counterfeit pills used to be pretty obvious to spot but at the lab, they’re seeing pills that look exactly like prescriptions.
For instance, a handful of pills laced with illegal Fentanyl have the same look and imprint code as Xanax and Norco.
Former O.C.-based DEA agent Mark Nomady says illegal Fentanyl is cheap to make and lucrative when you cut and sell it.
“The first gram that you pay $10 for could ultimately be worth $10,000 on the street,” he said.
He is not surprised that O.C. is the new hot bed. The liberal beach culture and socio-economics support it.
“To maintain a drug addiction is very expensive and so a lot of people in Orange County have the means to support that addiction,” Nomady said.
The epidemic is raging in O.C. and federal agents fear it will only grow across Southern California.
Fettig hopes families take notice and prepare.
“If someone’s in distress or needs help, please call, please call,” he said. “It can be anonymous but you could save a life.”