- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 29, 2016

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Northern California health officials say five people have died and 15 more have become sick in the past five days in Sacramento County after taking street drugs believed to contain a powerful painkiller.

The Sacramento Bee reports Monday (https://bit.ly/1SsDpXt) health officials believed that the 20 people who have been hospitalized or found dead of overdoses since March 24 had all taken tablets or capsules laced or mixed with fentanyl.

Fetanyl is prescribed to treat severe pain and it’s estimated to be 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine.

But UC Davis toxicologist Dr. Tim Albertson, who is working on the cases, said late Monday investigators believe drug dealers are putting fentanyl directly into capsules and selling them on the streets as something else.

Officials say some of the people who overdosed told investigators they thought they were taking Norco, a commonly abused prescription painkiller.

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Information from: The Sacramento Bee, https://www.sacbee.com

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