Advertisement
  1. News

Pinellas sheriff: Nine overdose deaths in 2016 linked to counterfeit Xanax

Published Mar. 22, 2016

CLEARWATER — Counterfeit Xanax pills laced with Fentanyl likely have killed nine people in Pinellas County this year, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Monday.

"People need to immediately stop buying Xanax on the street because their life literally depends on it," he said at a news conference.

The agency has confirmed three deaths and suspects six more linked to the pills. Nine others sold the pills to undercover law enforcement officers, Gualtieri said.

"Nine people are dead. Nine more would have been," he said.

The outbreak seems to be contained to Pinellas, Gualtieri said. But much remains unclear, including the pills' source, manufacturer and composition.

Xanax, used to treat anxiety, is cheap on the streets at $3 to $5 a pill. Gualtieri said supply and demand seems to have been consistent over the past few years.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 80 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin, has legitimate medical uses, such as pain relief in cancer patients. Because of its rapid onset, it's usually taken in a time-release patch — not orally, which doesn't control for its rapid onset.

Combining the two has proved to be lethal.

"It's so strong, it's killing them," Gualtieri said.

The counterfeit pills are made to look like Xanax, but are thinner and have a stamped-on number.

The Sheriff's Office is seeing a sharp uptick in Fentanyl mixed with other drugs, including heroin, in the past two years.

In 2014, the Sheriff's Office lab saw 14 such cases. In 2015, it saw 71.

And this year, it's on track for more than 100.

Most recently, Gualtieri said, a 25-year-old woman died after taking drugs mixed with Fentanyl in Dunedin. Hers was the first overdose-related death north of Largo.

And three others overdosed on a new opioid on the street, called U-47700, between October 2015 and January 2016, the sheriff said.

Gualtieri said he knows his office can't stop drug abuse. But he wants buyers to be aware.

"It may well kill them," he said. "There's no other way to put it."

Contact Claire McNeill at cmcneill@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8321.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Alachua County school superintendent Karen Clarke welcomes the crowd at a "listening session" Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019 to discuss changes in the Florida's education standards. A similar session is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at Jefferson High, 4401 W Cypress St. in Tampa. The Florida Channel
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  2. Tampa City Council members don't agree on much when it comes to the city's eight Community Redevelopment Areas. CHARLIE FRAGO  |  Charlie Frago
    Some City Council members say the popular redevelopment tools are unfair to other neighborhoods.
  3. Central High School student Samantha Lewis, 17, shows her Angus Cross heffer Annabell, 1, Saturday morning during the Open Beef Show at the Hernando County Fair and Youth Livestock Show at the fairgrounds. The fair and livestock show will run through April 16. For more information, call 352-796-4552 or visit hernandofairgrounds.com. HERNANDO TODAY PHOTO BY HAYLEY M  |  Hernando Today
    Hernando County Fair Association plans meet with skepticism from county commissioners and Brooksville City Council members.
  4. The graves of Caroline and Thomas Hicks are among nine found to have been moved out of the long-forgotten Zion Cemetery along North Florida Avenue. They were reburied in Memorial Park, believed to be the second African-American cemetery in Tampa. JAMES BORCHUCK  |
    The story of the pioneer Tampa family might help explain the disappearance of the place where some 800 African-Americans were buried.
  5. Pasco County Property Appraiser Gary Joiner (left) and County Commissioner Mike Wells Jr. (R) are both Republicans running for Pasco Property Appraiser in 2020. Handout photo
    State law requires him to resign effective November 2020, opening up an election for the District 4 Pasco County Commission seat.
  6. Families enjoy carnival rides at the 2018 Rattlesnake Festival at the Pasco County Fairgrounds. The festival returns Oct. 18-20, kicking off with a concert featuring the Bellamy Brothers on Friday and food, entertainment and educational activities throughout the weekend. "LUIS SANTANA  |  TIMES"  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Musicals, art exhibits and other things to do in Pasco and Hernando counties
  7. Festival goers move through the midway during the St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church's annual Ethnic Festival. This year's festival will be Oct. 17-20 at the church on Spring Hill Drive at Coronado Drive. Tampa Bay Times | 2010
    The 28th-annual Ethnic Festival returns to St. Joan of Arc.
  8. Legislative delegation meeting allows lawmakers to hear requests from local elected officials and civic organizations
  9. Kathryn Norris , 57, died in 2009 inside her Chevrolet Nova. It took authorities almost 16 months to find her. How could a woman go missing inside her own home? Florida Today
    Kathryn Norris disappeared long before she died.
  10. Regina Temple is the new president and CEO at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point. HCA West Florida
    Read this and more Pasco County business news.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement