By Pat Anson, Editor
A 50-year old northern California woman has been arrested for drug trafficking after a federal grand jury indicted her for illegal possession and distribution of hydrocodone and fentanyl. Mildred Dossman was arrested at her home in Sacramento. She faces up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine if convicted.
Federal prosecutors did not reveal many details in the indictment, but Dossman’s arrest appears to be connected to a wave of fentanyl overdoses earlier this year that killed at least 12 people and hospitalized dozens of others in the Sacramento area.
The fentanyl involved in those deaths was disguised as Norco, a prescription pain medication that combines hydrocodone with acetaminophen.
Dossman was allegedly involved in drug deals on January 18 and March 25 of this year – which fits the timeline of the fentanyl overdoses.
Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It is prescribed legally in patches and lozenges to treat severe chronic pain, but illicitly manufactured fentanyl is fast becoming a scourge across the U.S. and Canada, where it is blamed for thousands of fatal overdoses.
In addition to the counterfeit Norco, fentanyl has also been found in fake oxycodone and Xanax tablets. The counterfeit medication appeared on the streets at about the same time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released controversial guidelines that discourage doctors from prescribing opioids for chronic pain.
“I've had one of these so called super Norco’s,” a 25-year old Sacramento man told Pain News Network in March. “It had the markings of a regular prescription, M367. I only took a half just in case because of the news from the day and luckily I did. It was unlike any high I've had. It made me dizzy. I couldn't see straight or sleep.”
“David” bought 16 of the fake Norco pills from a friend for $5 each, not knowing he was actually getting fentanyl. He initially began taking opioid pain medication for a herniated disc several years ago, but switched to street drugs after being abruptly cut off by his doctor.
“I tried everything to get more and more prescription drugs prescribed. After that I had no choice but to turn to the street. It's a huge problem here in Sacramento,” said David. “Now there is such a high demand for the pills because of the increased regulations on them and not being able to scam an early refill. It has caused the price to spike on the streets and as soon as the word gets out someone has them they are immediately sold for ridiculous prices. It’s not all addicts and not all pain patients. The doctors around here are cutting people down on the amount they are prescribed, causing them to have nowhere else to turn but the neighborhood dealer.”
A DEA spokesman told PNN last month the U.S. was being “inundated” with illicit fentanyl, particularly in the Midwest and northeastern states. Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Ohio and Delaware recently reported an “alarming surge” in fentanyl related deaths. In some states, the number of deaths from fentanyl now exceeds those from prescription opioids.
“We think fentanyl and fentanyl overdoses have been underreported over the years in a lot of places. But we think people are now starting to pay more attention to it,” said DEA spokesman Rusty Payne.