The amount of fentanyl seized in Orange County this year is set to double for the third year in a row after a major bust this week, the sheriff’s department said.
In an operation on Wednesday, 18 pounds of the synthetic opioid pain reliever were seized, officials said. That’s nearly half the total amount of the drug confiscated in the county in all of 2018, they said. In addition, five pounds of heroin, half a pound of methamphetamine and a loaded semiautomatic handgun were seized.
The fentanyl has a street value of roughly $1.25 million and “contains more than 4 million fatal doses, enough to overdose every person who resides in the County of Orange,” officials said.
“The threat this extremely potent drug poses to our community is increasing exponentially, not subsiding,” Sheriff Don Barnes said in a statement.
In 2016, Orange County law enforcement seized less than one pound of fentanyl. That number has grown drastically, mirroring the nationwide opioid crisis. In 2017, 22 pounds of fentanyl was seized, followed by 44 pounds in 2018 and more than 100 pounds in 2019.
Deaths in Orange County related to fentanyl have jumped from 14 in 2014 to 93 in 2018, according to the California Health Department. The increase follows a trend throughout the state, from 104 deaths in 2014 to 743 in 2018.
The sheriff’s department has worked with state Sen. Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) to push for legislation to pursue illegal fentanyl distributors.
“Until we categorically include enhancements for trafficking fentanyl and make its penalties similar to other illicit drugs like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, we are enticing and encouraging drug traffickers to increase the supply of fentanyl in California at the expense of children and families in our community,” Barnes said.
More than 28,000 deaths involving synthetic opioids were recorded in the United States in 2017, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last year.