San Bernardino police officers seized 20,000 suspected fentanyl pills during a traffic stop.

Members of the police department’s narcotics unit stopped a car for undisclosed vehicle code violations some time last week.

Three people were inside of the vehicle and were taken into custody without incident. After officers searched the car, they found 20,000 fentanyl pills, a half-ounce of cocaine, a loaded handgun and more than $1,200 in cash. All three were arrested and face possible felony charges.

The seizure comes as the San Bernardino County Public Health Department issued a health advisory to warn residents about an increase in fentanyl-related overdose deaths in the county.

The warning was issued Monday afternoon by the county’s public health officer.

In 2018 there were 30 fentanyl overdose deaths in the county, Public Health said. That number has increased tenfold over the last three years, with 309 fentanyl overdose deaths in the county reported in 2021.

Dr. Michael Sequeira, San Bernardino County Public Health Officer, says these deaths are completely preventable and reducing the number of overdose deaths is “a top priority for San Bernardino County.”

Fentanyl is a cheap synthetic drug that can be 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. It’s responsible for more overdose deaths than any other illegal drug in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fentanyl is often mixed with other narcotics and is virtually impossible to distinguish before its use. Health officials say its use in America is a key contributor to the rise in overdose deaths nationwide.

As part of the County’s mission to reduce fentanyl overdose deaths, the County is acquiring more of the anti-opioid overdose medication Naloxone, increasing its use of outreach programs to contact opioid users before an overdose, and educating the public on the signs of an opioid overdose.

Those signs include:

  • Small, constricted “pinpoint pupils”
  • Falling asleep or losing consciousness
  • Slow, weak, or no breathing
  • Choking or gurgling sounds
  • Limp body
  • Cold and/or clammy skin
  • Discolored skin (especially in lips and nails)

For more on the Public Health Department’s efforts to address the opioid epidemic, click here.

If you need information about alcohol or substance use treatment options, you can call the County’s Department of Behavioral Health Substance Use 24-hour helpline at 800-968-2636.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the drugs were seized by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.