LARGO — Nine people have died from drug overdoses linked to counterfeit Xanax pills bought on the street since January, Pinellas County investigators said.
The pills, which are a combination of Xanax and fentanyl, a narcotic used to treat severe pain, are marketed to buyers as
as the prescribed, non-tampered Xanax. Sgt. Stephen Gross with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said investigators don’t know the motivation behind why these pills are being produced or from where they are coming.
In three cases investigators have confirmed users died from a lethal combination of the anti-anxiety medication Xanax and fentanyl, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced this week. Six additional overdose deaths are strongly suspected to be linked to the drug combination.
Gualtieri warned people not to buy Xanax on the street and to use only medicines prescribed by a doctor and filled by a pharmacy. The pills are being manufactured to look like Xanax in size, color and shape, but are slightly thinner than a doctor-prescribed pill.
The nine overdoses have taken place from Largo to south St. Petersburg, but the drug’s use doesn’t appear to reach beyond Pinellas County, Gualtieri said.
Sheriff’s officials are working with other agencies in the county on the problem, including St. Petersburg and Clearwater police.
“It’s not linked to any one law enforcement agency or jurisdictions,” Gross said.
Fentanyl, which specifically is used by cancer patients, is 80 times more powerful than Morphine and about 50 times more powerful than pure heroin, Gualtieri said.