One person is dead and 12 others hospitalized after suspected fentanyl overdoses in California that sickened two responding police officers, authorities said.
Of the 12 overdose victims, four remained in critical condition hours after authorities responded to a 911 call around 9 a.m. Pacific time on Saturday at a home in Chico, said Chico Police Chief Mike O’Brien.
“Certainly there’s potential for additional fatalities,” he said at a press conference. “I want to emphasize that.”
Chico Fire Chief Steven Standridge described it as “a mass casualty incident” that saw four fire engines and Butte County’s entire fleet of eight ambulances at the scene.
Six doses of the opioid antidote naloxone were administered to the victims, who are believed to be friends 19 to 30 years old. Officers began carrying naloxone only last year, said O’Brien.
The exact type of drug taken by the victims is not yet clear. O’Brien said it’s believed to have been a form of fentanyl that was mixed with another unknown substance. He said they expect to have test results on the drug within a few days.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid pain reliever, is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It has been blamed for a significant rise in overdose deaths across the country in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“These substances are extraordinarily dangerous, and it takes a very minute amount to cause [life-threatening] conditions,” O’Brien said.
The drug is so potent that two officers who responded to the home started to feel its effects and were transported to a hospital for examination, then released.