By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Aug. 9, 2016 (HealthDay News) — At least one San Francisco-area drug user died and eight more landed in the ER in late 2015 after taking counterfeit Xanax tablets that had been cut with a powerful and dangerous opiate, a new report shows.

The nine people all had taken tablets that looked very similar to prescription Xanax, down to bearing the same pharmaceutical markings as the legitimate anxiety drug, said report author Dr. Ann Arens. She is a former ER physician at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

But the tablets had been cut with fentanyl, a cheap, synthetic opioid that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says is 100 times more potent than morphine. The rock star Prince died of a fentanyl overdose at his Paisley Park recording studio in Minneapolis in April.

“They look exactly the same, and the users that were exposed to these tablets had no idea it was anything other than what they thought they were buying,” said Arens, who recently took a new job as attending ER physician at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.

Three people who took the fake pills suffered from heart attacks and one from heart failure, while others experienced a dangerous dip in their respiratory and nervous system function, according to the case report.

The patients included an infant who had to be placed on a respirator after taking a fake Xanax pill he found lying on the ground at home.

The case report was published online Aug. 8 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

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2016-08-18T13:51:08+00:00