Humboldt County has seen a substantial increase in illicit fentanyl distribution, possession and overdose cases, including an alarming number of overdose deaths.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid and a Schedule II narcotic that is approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. Fentanyl is often added to heroin and other drugs to increase their potency and can cause accidental overdose.
As of April 14, 2021, the Humboldt County Coroner’s Office has received confirmation of eight fentanyl overdose deaths in the county, with six in the month of March alone. Multiple overdose death investigations remain pending receipt of toxicology reports, with more fentanyl cases anticipated.
Additionally, in 2021 alone, Humboldt County Drug Task Force Agents have seized over 187 grams of Fentanyl and approximately 5,002 Fentanyl pills. In comparison, agents seized just 3 grams of Fentanyl in 2020 and three Fentanyl patches in 2019.
“What we are seeing currently are products that contain larger doses of fentanyl, especially in pill form,” Lieutenant Shawn Sopoaga, Humboldt County Drug Task Force Commander said. “Fentanyl is being transported to Humboldt County in a raw form and used as a cutting agent, by dealers, to produce more product.”
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, a lethal dose of fentanyl consists of two milligrams, equal in size to a few grains of salt. The DEA’s Fentanyl Signature Profiling Program found that 26 percent of illicit fentanyl pills examined in 2019 contained potentially lethal doses of fentanyl. Counterfeit pills can be difficult to distinguish from legitimate medications and are often marketed as M30s, Perc30s, Blues or Mexican Oxy.
Fentanyl can also be absorbed through the skin and accidental inhalation of airborne powder can occur. Due to the rising threat of Fentanyl exposure, Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies have been equipped with Narcan, a nasal spray designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose. In California, residents can purchase NARCAN® Nasal Spray without a prescription, directly from a pharmacist, and those locally struggling with addiction are highly encouraged to carry Narcan in case of overdose emergency.
“One of my biggest concerns is that our teenagers and young adults are taking pills from these dealers that are laced with fentanyl. The chances of overdose is very high,” Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal said. “We are working with both our state and federal law enforcement partners to hold those persons accountable that are pushing fentanyl in our community.”
Anyone with information regarding narcotics related crimes are encouraged to call the Humboldt County Drug Task Force at 707-267-9976 or the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at (707) 268-2539.