Editor’s note: The Orange County Sheriff’s Department issued this news release on Wednesday, Feb. 27.
Seizures of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, and other illicit drugs have increased rapidly in Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) jurisdiction, with fentanyl seizures skyrocketing from less than one pound to more than 44 pounds in just two years.
Multiple narcotics, gang and interdiction teams covering OCSD contract cities and unincorporated areas work tirelessly to intercept illicit drugs.
In 2018, these teams seized 44 pounds of fentanyl, 72 pounds of heroin, 451 pounds of cocaine, and 1,420 pounds of methamphetamine.
Even more alarming are the year-to-year increases in seizures, specifically of fentanyl.
Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever, approved for treating severe pain, typically used for advanced cancer patients. It’s similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.
Illicit fentanyl, sold on the street, started to emerge locally in 2017.
The chart below depicts the rapid growth in seizures of illegal fentanyl from 2015 through 2018:
While in a medical setting fentanyl can be effective and safe for the treatment of severe pain; when it’s used illegally it can be incredibly dangerous.
A fatal overdose of fentanyl can be 2 milligrams. For perspective, a sugar-packet-sized bag of fentanyl can contain 500 lethal doses.
The 44 pounds seized by OCSD in 2018 contains more than 10 million fatal doses, enough fentanyl to overdose the entire population of Orange County three times.
“These drug seizures will have an impact at the street level,” said Sheriff Don Barnes, Orange County Sheriff-Coroner. “When we couple enforcement with education, we will see reductions in drug activity across Orange County. Less drugs and less drug users will translate to lower crime rates, keeping us all safer.”