LARGO (FOX 13) - A dangerous drug is killing people in Pinellas County, and it's being passed off as regular Xanax on the streets.
So far it's caused nine deaths.
"However these pills that were taken and swallowed, were really a combination of Xanax and Fentanyl," said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
Fentanyl is a super-strong synthetic opioid, 50 times more potent than pure heroin. It's usually prescribed in a time-release patch.
"If people are going out to buy what they think is Xanax on the street, they could end up not waking up," Sheriff Gualtieri said.
It's so dangerous it's hard for authorities to understand why anyone would even blend this kind of deadly cocktail. But more and more mixtures of street drugs and Fentanyl are being reported to local crime labs.
In Pinellas County there has been a spike from 14 reports in 2014 to 71 reports last year.
"We don't know whether the source of Xanax-Fentanyl mixture is a local source, being manufactured here or in our area or manufactured elsewhere and being imported," continued Gualtieri.
On at least nine occasions, investigators have purchased the bogus Xanax bars during undercover buys.
"People need to immediately stop buying Xanax on the street, because their life literally depends on it," Gualtieri said.