SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — As the opioid crisis continues to grow across the nation, authorities in Orange County reported last week that they seized 18 pounds of fentanyl with a street value of $1.25 million in a single bust.
The Oct. 16 seizure equaled nearly half the total fentanyl Orange County Sheriff’s deputies had seized in all of 2018.
It was enough fentanyl to cause about 4 million fatal overdoses, the sheriff’s department said.
“We’re seeing the overdose rate go through the roof,” O.C. Sheriff Don Barnes said. “That was enough fentanyl in one seizure to kill the entire county’s 3.2 million residents three times over.”
Along with the fentanyl, deputies also seized 5 pounds of heroin, a half-pound of meth, a loaded handgun and $71,000 in cash.
Deputies arrested a man who was being held on $2 million bail.
“It’s coming right over the Mexican border into the United States, trafficked up the 5 and 15 freeways,” Barnes said. “It’s going east from here throughout the rest of the country.”
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid painkiller that is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. The sheriff’s department said the amount of fentanyl it sees has exploded in recent years. In all of 2016, the department seized less than a pound of fentanyl. In 2017, that jumped to 22 pounds. In 2018, it seized 44 pounds. So far in 2019, it has seized more than 100 pounds.
Officials said the increase in fentanyl trafficking is due in part to its relatively low cost and its addictive nature. Furthermore, because it’s relatively new, the drug does not carry the same punishment as selling heroin. Barnes said he is pushing for new laws to crack down on those dealing fentanyl.
“It’s very dangerous,” he said. “It’s not getting better, it’s getting much worse. And I think as a county, as a state and as a country, we have to get out ahead of this.”
This all comes after a toxicology report determined that 27-year-old Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs died in Texas back in July from an accidental overdose from a mix of alcohol, fentanyl and oxycodone.
According to a report from ESPN earlier this month, an Angels PR employee is under investigation for possibly having procured drugs for Skaggs over a period of several years.
In September 2017, rapper Mac Miller died at his Studio City home from an accidental overdose caused by a mix of fentanyl, cocaine and alcohol.
Earlier this month, three men were federally indicted for supplying Miller with the drugs that killed him. One of those men is accused of giving Miller fentanyl-laced oxycodone pills just two days before his death.