In Northern California, a “mass causality overdose” caused by fentanyl has left one dead and 12 hospitalized, with four of the victims in critical condition.
According to NBC News, authorities in Chico, California were called at 9 a.m. on January 13 and arrived to find 13 victims, ages 19 to 30. Police captain Mike O’Brien said the cause of the overdose was fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be up to 100 times more potent than heroin. Often imported from China and Mexico, fentanyl is used as a filler in heroin and other drugs.
Responding officers administered six doses of the opioid antidote naloxone along with CPR. Two officers who also became ill at the scene were treated at the hospital and later released.
In a news conference, O’Brien said, “The residence where this incident occurred is being treated as a hazmat site.”
Authorities believe the drug was paired with something else, and though they haven’t confirmed the second substance, O’Brien says officers have previously only encountered fentanyl in conjunction with heroin.
Last year, a study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that opioid-related emergency room visits increased 99% from 2005-2014. In 2017, The New York Times reported that drug overdose deaths jumped 19% in 2016, the largest annual jump ever recorded in the United States. Overdose deaths are now the leading killer of Americans under 50, in large part due to opioids like heroin and fentanyl.