Fake oxy and Percocet sold on Snapchat have contributed to a tripling of fentanyl overdoses in Santa Clara County, and prosecutors are starting to charge dealers with murder.
The appearance of homemade street drugs is of course unpredictable, but the above light blue pills stamped with the letter ‘M’ on one side and the numeral 30 on the other have been associated with fentanyl deaths in Nevada, Austin, Texas, Washington state, and as far away as Columbus, Ohio. The Bay Area News Group reported last month that the blue M’s were involved in an 18-year-old Santa Clara woman’s overdose. A common theme in all these reports is that they buyer is told they’re getting oxycodone or Percocet. And that Santa Clara woman’s case is part of a spreading phenomenon with these blue M pills, as KRON 4 reports that Santa Clara fentanyl overdoses have tripled under shelter-in-place.
Yes, we know sometimes law enforcement sometimes exaggerates fentanyl cases, but these numbers are backed by medical examiner’s reports. As Bay City News explains, Santa Clara County has seen 19 deaths thus far in 2020, compared to only seven this time a year ago. More than half of the fatalities were young people between 16 and 25 years old.
“In the last week or two there have been approximately seven fatal fentanyl [overdoses], which year over year is off the charts,” Santa Clara County deputy district attorney Brian Buckelew tells KRON 4 in the segment above. “A number of these young people are getting these pills through Snapchat and other social media outlets.”
Surely shelter-in-place has led to more intoxication across the board, but also more depression, substance abuse, and mental health deterioration. The increase in fentanyl ODs is consistent with an increase of overdoses in general.
“I do believe the shelter in place has played a role, in the past two to three months people have tended to use more of these substances,” behavior health specialist Mira Parwiz told KRON 4. “We are seeing more substance abuse calls and overdoses.”
Some users know they’re buying fentanyl, and apparently genuinely like the stuff. Others, like Prince most famously, thought they were using legitimate prescription opioids. And as in the case last month’s 18-year-old victim, some prosecutors are now charging those dealers with murder. Buckelew says Santa Clara County is doing so going forward, noting he would litigate it as such in cases “where you have a drug dealer knowingly selling fentanyl aware of it’s dangerous properties to someone who does not know they’re purchasing fentanyl, thinking they are buying oxycodone who then overdoses and dies.”
Image: County of Santa Clara via Facebook