Health officials warn the public on the danger of buying anti-anxiety drug Xanax on the streets after a bad batch of counterfeit drugs sent several people to the hospital.

The warning was released after several East Bay high school students were hospitalized due to taking counterfeit Xanax pill made with powerful opioids. During lunch break, teachers noticed that the students were acting as if they were intoxicated and promptly called an ambulance.

Seven other students have also been suspended by East Bay High when they were found to be intoxicated due to taking Xanax, though authorities did not initially consider that these cases could be linked to street Xanax.

At least three more cases of opioid overdose due to these counterfeit pills have been reported this October, sustaining muscle weakness and damage as well as breathing problems and risk for kidney injury. A fourth person found dead after using the pills.

Legitimately produced Xanax is used to treat panic disorders and severe panic attacks dispensed legally with a prescription. Xanax sold in streets are actually fake pills containing fentanyl, a potent opioid stronger than morphine.

Opioids are commonly used to relieve severe pain caused by advanced conditions like cancer. Their use, however, is under strict supervision due to its addictive properties and its life threatening side effects, including respiratory depression.

"We know there is a dangerous counterfeit drug being sold on the street as Xanax, and people should be very careful and avoid the risk of overdose and death," said Tomás Aragón of the San Francisco Department of Health.

In a separate incident at Pinole Valley High Schools, several students have also been hospitalized due to taking fake Xanax. It is still unknown how the students have acquired the counterfeit drugs.

Health officials have alerted healthcare workers on the appearance of the counterfeit pills in the community and also advised the public to have access to naloxone, the antidote to opioid poisoning, as a first aid measure for Xanax overdose.

The bottom line, Argon said, is that the public should avoid buying Xanax from the streets or other untrustworthy sources.

"Under no circumstances should you accept medication from someone else, or purchase prescription medicine on the street," advised Argon.

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