Fentanyl overdose in California house leaves 1 dead, 4 in critical condition

by NCN Health And Science Team Posted on January 13th, 2019

Chico, California: One person is dead and four are in critical condition following apparent drug overdoses Saturday morning at a house on Santana Court in an incident that Chico police Chief Mike O’Brien described as “horrific.”

“Every indication is that this mass overdose incident was caused from the ingestion of some form of fentanyl in combination with another substance,” O’Brien said at a press conference Saturday afternoon. “That is yet to be confirmed but we do anticipate confirmation in the coming days.”

A Chico Police Department news release listed the address as 1166 Santana Court, just off Ceres Avenue near East Avenue east of Highway 99.

“One male individual was pronounced dead at the scene. We are not releasing any further details on that death,” O’Brien said.

According to Mike Rodden, Chico police commander, all of the people hospitalized were over 18 and most appeared to be in their 20s. The first reports came in to the police department around 9 a.m., Rodden said.

In addition to those transported to Enloe Medical Center, two police officers were transported as a precaution after they told firefighters on scene they were feeling some effects, O’Brien said.

Chico Fire Department Chief Steve Standridge said CPR was performed on six individuals at the scene, and a total of 12 were transported to Enloe Medical Center.

At the press conference, O’Brien said officers also administered six doses of naloxone when they arrived at the scene.

At the time of the incident, several emergency vehicles were sent to the scene.

“We had four fire engines; all of the Butte EMS were on scene as well. It was a large mass casualty incident for us.,” Standridge said.

In its news release, Enloe Medical Center said 11 people had been taken to their facility. In addition to the four in critical condition, three others were listed as serious, one fair and one undetermined. Two others were treated and released.

O’Brien said though the event is tragic, and there is a possibility for more fatalities, it could have been worse without dispensing the naloxone, a drug which counteracts the effects of opioids.

“These substances are extremely dangerous, and it takes just a very minute amount to cause life-saving conditions,” O’Brien said.

Chico police detectives are now conducting the investigation of the incident, O’Brien said. The residence is being treated as a hazmat site and the Butte Interagency Narcotics Task Force is responsible for the scene.

Currently it is unknown if those who ingested the drug were being targeted and the police are following up on information they received regarding that as part of the investigative process.

Police have Santana Court taped off at Ceres Street. Multiple police vehicles remained at the scene mid-afternoon.

There is no clear time or date when the scene will be cleared, but the neighbors are not at risk.

“It’s not a danger to the public right now,” O’Brien said.

Since the residence is a hazmat scene O’Brien said they are not releasing details regarding the removal of the body from the scene, but they want to handle it respectfully and safely.

“We’ll have additional information as this unfolds and we’ll release that information as soon as we can,” O’Brien said.


Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever, approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain.1 It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It is prescribed in the form of transdermal patches or lozenges and can be diverted for misuse and abuse in the United States.

However, most recent cases of fentanyl-related harm, overdose, and death in the U.S. are linked to illegally made fentanyl.2 It is sold through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effect. It is often mixed with heroin and/or cocaine as a combination product—with or without the user’s knowledge—to increase its euphoric effects.

Synthetic opioids are a class of drugs that are designed to provide pain relief, mimicking naturally occurring opioids such as codeine and morphine. They tend to be highly potent, which means only a small amount of the drug is required to produce a given effect. They include drugs like tramadol and fentanyl. Methadone is also a synthetic opioid; however, deaths involving this drug are tracked separately from deaths involving other synthetic opioids, particularly in National Vital Statistics System data.

Although synthetic opioids are manufactured by pharmaceutical companies, they are also manufactured illegally in clandestine labs and distributed through the illicit drug market. Deaths involving pharmaceutical and illicit synthetic opioids cannot be distinguished in National Vital Statistics System data.

Overdose Deaths Involving Synthetic Opioids

Death rates involving synthetic opioids (other than methadone), which include drugs such as tramadol and fentanyl.

  • In 2017, more than 28,000 deaths involving synthetic opioids (other than methadone) occurred in the United States, which is more deaths than from any other type of opioid.
  • Also in 2017, the largest increase in synthetic opioid overdose death rates was in males aged 25-44.
  • Deaths from synthetic opioids significantly increased in 23 states and the District of Columbia from 2016 to 2017.
  • West Virginia, Ohio, and New Hampshire had the highest death rates from synthetic opioids.1

Synthetic opioid overdose death rates (other than methadone) increased across all demographics, county urbanization levels, and numerous states. State reports have indicated that increases in synthetic opioid-involved deaths have been associated with the number of drug submissions obtained by law enforcement that test positive for fentanyl but not with fentanyl prescribing rates. These reports indicate that increases in synthetic opioid-involved deaths are being driven by increases in fentanyl-involved overdose deaths, and the source of the fentanyl is more likely to be illicitly manufactured than pharmaceutical.

There are also fentanyl analogs, such as acetylfentanyl, furanylfentanyl, and carfentanil, which are similar in chemical structure to fentanyl but not routinely detected because specialized toxicology testing is required. Recent surveillance has also identified other emerging synthetic opioids, like U-47700.5 Estimates of the potency of fentanyl analogs vary from less potent than fentanyl to much more potent than fentanyl, but there is some uncertainty because potency of illicitly manufactured fentanyl analogs has not been evaluated in humans. Carfentanil, the most potent fentanyl analog detected in the U.S., is estimated to be 10,000 times more potent than morphine. 

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