The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has recently identified three cases of accidental drug overdoses involving the presumed use of ecstasy that was contaminated with fentanyl. The likelihood that contaminated ecstasy and other pills are available in the community is very high, as is the risk of overdose when exposed to these substances.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Because of fentanyl’s high potency, it poses a greater risk for overdose. Non-prescribed fentanyl is being sold in counterfeit pressed pills, marketed as Norco, Percocet, Xanax, and Oxycontin. Fentanyl is also being sold as heroin in a powder form and has been found in methamphetamines, cocaine, ecstasy, and even illicit cannabis. California is one of 16 states with a greater than 50% increase in fatal overdoses involving synthetic opioids in a 12-month comparison (CDC Health Alert Network Advisory).
Anyone who has access to drugs that are not prescribed to them, and not directly dispensed to them through a pharmacy, should be advised to have Narcan, also known as naloxone, available and test any drugs for fentanyl.
- Be wary of counterfeit pills obtained through acquaintance/social media purchase.
- Assume that all non-prescribed substances contain fentanyl.
- Always have Narcan in case of an overdose.
- Never use alone (friends can save your life!).
- Test your drugs for fentanyl using fentanyl test strips.
- Start low and go slow (watch and wait before using more).
- Avoid dangerous combinations: fentanyl is especially dangerous when mixed with benzos such as Xanax and Klonopin, but mixing it unknowingly other opiates such as heroin, Vicodin, or Oxycontin or even with alcohol can also lead to an overdose very quickly.
Narcan is a covered benefit of the USC Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP/Aetna), Medi-Cal, and most other insurance plans and does not require a prescription. It can be obtained at USC Pharmacies and other retail pharmacies with a consultation with a pharmacist. Fentanyl testing strips are available at the USC Bookstores.
USC students can obtain no-cost kits containing both naloxone and testing strips through the Naloxone SC program run by graduate students in the USC School of Pharmacy.
USC Department of Public Safety’s first responders carry Narcan and are trained to administer it; the 24/7 emergency number is 213-740-4321 (UPC); 323-442-1000 (HSC).
Additional no-cost resources are available to all residents of Los Angeles County (naloxone, fentanyl test strips, and harm reduction resources); additional information for students is available at safety.usc.edu/drugs.