Fentanyl Citrate, a CLASS II Controlled Substance as classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency in the secure area of a local hospital Friday, July10, 2009.    Joe Amon / The Denver Post
Obama explains war on prescription drugs and opioids
00:56 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Nearly 30 people overdosed on opioid pills in under a week in Sacramento

Many of the pills were thought to be Norco, but actually contained a much more powerful opiate, fentanyl

President Obama visited Atlanta to discuss prescription drug abuse on Tuesday

CNN  — 

A massive spike in opioid overdoses has struck Sacramento County, California, killing a half dozen people, authorities said.

In less than a week, nearly 30 people have overdosed on tainted pills. A dozen of those overdoses were reported within a 48 hour time frame.

“It’s very scary,” Jon Daily, founder of the drug abuse center Recovery Happens, told CNN affiliate KCRA. “I’ve never seen it in my career with any substance.”

Authorities believe that some opioid users are taking mislabeled, counterfeit “street drugs” that are much more potent than advertised.

Those that overdosed bought their drugs from strangers, and others got pills from “friends and neighbors,” authorities said.

The Sacramento County Department of Public Health says that many of those who overdosed took pills that they thought were Norco, a drug that’s a combination of acetominophen, the generic name for pain relievers like Tylenol, and hydrocodone, a narcotic pain reliever.

FDA requires ‘black box’ warning on painkillers

However, some of the pills instead contained fentanyl, a synthetic opiate that’s estimated to be hundreds of times more potent than heroin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In some cases, the drugs were made to look like Norco but were actually fentanyl pills, according to the department of public health.

‘The scope of the problem’

The United States has seen an uptick in prescription drug abuse in recent years.

Drug overdose deaths in the United States hit a record-high in 2014, according to the CDC. Seventy-eight Americans die each day from an opioid overdose.

Obama announces new moves to fight opioid and heroin abuse epidemic

“The public doesn’t fully appreciate the scope of the problem,” President Barack Obama said Tuesday at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta.

The Obama administration announced a series of initiatives on Tuesday in order to expand addiction treatment.

“Addictions may be different for different people,” he said . “What we do know is there are steps that can be taken to get through addiction and get to the other side, and that is under-resourced.”

CNN’s Nadia Kounang contributed to this report.