Fentanyl linked to June overdose death

Fake prescription pills contained illicit opioid

Counterfeit prescription pills seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Photo courtesy of the DEA

A recent overdose death has been linked to the opioid fentanyl, Cordova Police Chief Nate Taylor announced Wednesday, Aug. 11.

Zak Jacobs, 34, of Cordova, died June 6 in connection with an overdose, officials confirmed. A controlled substance discovered in conjunction with the death was determined to be fentanyl by the State of Alaska Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory. However, the fentanyl resembled 30-milligram pills of the opioid medication oxycodone hydrochloride, according to a release by the Cordova Police Department. Although the fentanyl pills were found in conjunction with Jacobs’s death, a cause of death has not yet been determined.

A single 30-milligram oxycodone pill can fetch up to $30 on the street, according to a 2019 Drug Enforcement Administration report. However, fentanyl is cheaper to obtain than pharmaceutical-grade opioid prescription pills, leading some illicit drug manufacturers to create counterfeit oxycodone pills using fentanyl. Fentanyl is many times more potent than oxycodone, and a customer who is used to taking oxycodone would not necessarily have the tolerance to ingest fentanyl without overdosing, according to the report.

Based on a sampling of counterfeit prescription pills seized between January-March 2019, the DEA found that 27% contained potentially deadly doses of fentanyl.

“These deadly drugs are circulating in Cordova and there’s really no way to distinguish these from oxycodone,” Taylor said in a release.

Lisa Marie Jacobs, Zak Jacobs’s mother, said that the police department did not notify the family before publishing an Aug. 11 release about the case. The release did not identify Zak Jacobs by name.

“Back in June, the police department didn’t contact me regarding Zak’s death,” wrote Lisa Marie Jacobs in an email. “Someone else did and I called the department. It was one trauma on top of another. It didn’t have to be that way. So learning about the crime lab results on Facebook seemed like insult to injury.

“At the same time, Cordova is a small town. Things like this don’t happen every day, so I know there are going to be officers who don’t have experience in how to sensitively deal with families in these circumstances. We’re all human.”

Lisa Marie Jacobs said she hoped the department would succeed in arresting the people bringing fentanyl into Cordova.

The goal of the release was to protect the public and, possibly, to elicit more information on the source of the pills, police department officials said.

“We were trying to warn the public of the danger, not imply any participation of her [Lisa Marie Jacobs’s] son in illegal activities,” Taylor wrote in an email. “He may have been a victim himself and not known that the pills were counterfeit.”

Kits including anti-overdose medication and fentanyl-detecting test strips, provided by nongovernmental organization Project HOPE, are available for free at Cordova Community Medical Center and Ilanka Community Health Center.

A public forum on the topic of substance abuse was slated for July 20, but was postponed due to a local novel coronavirus outbreak. A new date for the forum has not yet been announced. Panelists are planned to include hospital, police and court officials. The public will be able to anonymously submit questions for panelists online at cdv.tiny.us/forum or via a drop box at the event.