4 killed by counterfeit painkillers in San Diego as officials struggle to clamp down on ‘Mexican oxy’ laced with deadly elephant tranquilizer
- The tiny sky-blue pills, ‘M-30s’, are presented as oxycodone but contain fentanyl and/or carfentanil
- 2mg of fentanyl is lethal, and 0.2mg of carfentanil is lethal
- San Diego officials warn most users do not know the pills are so lethal
Counterfeit painkillers have killed at least four people in San Diego, California this week.
The deaths are linked to tiny sky-blue pills, ‘M-30s’, which now saturate the street drugs market in the Southwestern US.
The drugs are packaged as oxycodone pills – a common, potent painkiller – but they contain a cocktail of ingredients, including lethal sedatives fentanyl or carfentanil.
Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, once headed by now-imprisoned Joaquien ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, started slipping batches of M-30s over the border in 2017 to meet the unprecedented demand for cheap opioids in a new nation of drug addicts, fueled by prescription painkillers.
Just two years later, the little blue pills, known as ‘Mexican oxy’, are everywhere, and death rates are climbing.
The deaths are linked to tiny sky-blue pills, ‘M-30s’, which now saturate the street drugs market in the Southwestern US
‘Our detectives treat each of these overdose deaths as a crime scene, and we are following up on the source of supply for these illicit pharmaceuticals,’ Undersheriff of San Diego County, Mike Barnett, said on Thursday, CNN reports.
Neither fentanyl nor carfentanil are new in the US illicit drugs market, but until recently they had been on the fringes of the opioid epidemic.
Fentanyl, first used as a sedative for horses, is 100 times stronger than heroin and can kill an adult male with 2 milligrams. Carfentanil, has been effective for sedating even bigger animals, like elephants and rhinos. Anything more than 0.2mg is lethal when it comes to carfentanil.
Last month, San Diego police arrested 14 people allegedly tied to a gang, ‘the Crooked Angels’, who were cutting carfentanil into opioids, which were allegedly responsible for three overdoses and one death.
It was a big moment for the DEA.
‘It’s always sitting there, lurking there on the outskirts. You don’t know when it’s going to show,’ San Diego DEA Special Agent, Colin Ruane, told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
‘That’s the scary thing about all of this. You think you’re taking heroin or oxycodone or Xanax and you don’t know what’s in it.’