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7 Dead, 21 Sick After Taking Street Painkillers

kev-shine / Flickr
 

kev-shine / Flickr

(AP) — Northern California health officials say two more people have died in the last week after taking street drugs believed to contain a powerful painkiller, raising the total to seven.

Sacramento County health officials say 21 other people have been sent to hospitals since March 24 after likely taking tablets or capsules containing fentanyl.

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

The Sacramento Bee reports 28-year-old Jerome Butler is the first publicly known victim. The mother of the father of three says her son took a tablet of what he thought was Norco, a milder painkiller, and was found unresponsive Saturday.

Federal officials say they are investigating how fentanyl found its way to Butler and others in the Sacramento area.