Fentanyl masquerading as other illegally purchased prescription drugs turn up in Houston

HOUSTON — Across the country, overdosing on opiates is out of control, and some of the deadliest forms of the drugs are even showing up in Houston.

In Elyria, Ohio, a grandmother, overdosed on heroin — with her 8-month-old grandson in the back seat!

And in Lawrence, Massachusetts, a 2-year-old tugs at her mother’s limp body after the woman lost consciousness at a Family Dollar. Investigators said a baggy of heroin, or possibly the drug Fentanyl was found in her bag.

You’ll remember Fentanyl is what ended up killing Prince. It’s a legal prescription drug, but it can be upwards of 100 to 200 times as potent as morphine.

“Maybe 50 times as potent as heroin,” says James Miller, manager of the controlled substances section with the Houston Forensic Science Center.

Who chases a high 50 times more potent than heroin? Generally, no one. It's just cheaper and easier to get for dealers.

“Fentanyl is supplied from the dealers, and typically its been supplied mixed in or in place of heroin," Miller said. "One of the things that’s unique about this Fentanyl outbreak is that we’re also seeing it in fake pharmaceutical products.”

That outbreak is 12 cases here in Houston where pills purchased illicitly off the street looked like opiates — hydrocodone or oxy — but were actually the much stronger Fentanyl that had been re-pressed to look indistinguishable from their legitimate counterpart.

And it’s not just pills bought from street dealers.

Miller says, “If you’re buying your prescription medication online you don’t know where they’re actually coming from it may be that these products are coming from China which is where a lot of these Fentanyl products are coming from.”

There’s no legal heroin, so abusers never know what they’re getting. Problem is now with these fake pills, that false sense of security that came with a manufacturer and dose marking is gone.

“You run that risk of not taking what it is you think you’re taking or what it even looks like it should be,” Miller said.

Abusing drugs is never safe, but with Fentanyl out there masquerading as everyday prescription pain killers, it may never have been more dangerous than now.