The Santa Clarita Valley is now one of the most impacted areas for fentanyl deaths. Many of those people killed are teenagers.
This year alone, 23 people have died from fentanyl overdoses.
At Action Drugs Rehab Center in Santa Clarita, Cory Quashen gave an ominous warning.
“Every drug out there is fake. If you’re buying drugs on the street or on the internet, you’re buying fentanyl,” Quashen said.
Quashen tested pills for fentanyl as part of a demonstration to show just how prevalent the synthetic opioid is in seemingly unrelated drugs.
Fentanyl, the synthetic opioid up to 50 times stronger than morphine, is now causing more deaths in Santa Clarita than almost anywhere else in Los Angeles County.
Christal Anzalone’s 19-year-old son Nicholas, known for his red hair and his love of video games, was one of those deaths. She found his body on their living room floor.
“I had checked on him twice that night,” Anzalone said.
She said her son became addicted the moment he tried it for the first time.
“Once he took it, that was it. One pill and he was craving it already,” she said.
Jaime Puertas’ 16-year-old son also overdosed on a pill he ordered online.
“It wasn’t what he thought it was. It was a cloned pill, a pill made with fentanyl and a binder,” Puertas said during a news conference in Santa Clarita.
Fentanyl deaths are more than doubling every year; from just over 1,200 in 2018 to more than 2,400 in 2020.
Parents, civic leaders and law enforcement were on hand for an event to discuss the problem Tuesday.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva gave a stark warning to anyone caught selling, manufacturing or handing out the drug.
The Sheriff’s Department has formed a special task force and they will investigate drug overdoses just like they do homicides.
“I don’t care what you’re doing, if you cause the death of somebody else, you’re going to pay for it,” the sheriff said.
Experts say most kids are just not aware that fentanyl is being used in these fake drugs. They say parents who think their child might be getting drugs online from website or social media, need to intervene because the risks are that serious.
Speakers at Monday’s event hope no parent will have to experience what Puertas and Anzalone had to go through.
“It’s the worst thing I’ve ever had happen,” Anzalone said.