The Drug Enforcement Agency is investigating a drug crisis in Northern California, after nine deaths and 36 overdoses in Sacramento and Yolo County were reported from fentanyl disguised as Norco painkillers. Fentanyl is potentially lethal, even in small doses.
It's considered 25 to 50 times more potent than heroin and 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
Those who have been affected range from 18 years old to 59. It's been 50 percent men, 50 percent women.
Pauline Meehan, 22, is the younger sister of Russell Meehan, 32, one of the people who died from taking the fake Norco pills.
"It could happen to anybody," Pauline said, explaining that Russell was using Norco painkiller for a broken ankle and had a prescription.
Pauline sat down with ABC10 with the hope that speaking out might help prevent this from happening to other families.
"His laugh was so infectious. Even during family get-togethers, he was always going around to all the groups, making us feel like a family," Pauline said. "He really was our glue."
The "Meehan Clan," as they were often called, is a big family of thirteen children. They're now missing the person who held them together. A best friend, a role model, it's impossible for Pauline to put into words what her big brother meant to her.
"He knew how to make you feel part of the group and welcomed. That's not a characteristic a lot of people have," Pauline said. "[He's] so forgiving no matter what people did to him...never had a bad thing to say. That is one trait I wish I had."
Russell had big plans for his future. He was a successful craftsman and entrepreneur, who was back in school to get more certification.
He was also the father of a little girl. "I've never seen anybody who loves his baby more," said Pauline. "He was just somebody who enjoyed life."
Even when life got tough, Russell pushed through.
Last October, when he broke his ankle in a skateboarding accident and needed a four hour surgery, in which two metal plates were inserted. Russell wore a cast for several months.
"I know it was really painful for him. When it was cold, he could feel the bar rattle on his bones," Pauline said. "He had just recently got off crutches and was getting readjusted building muscle."
Even that couldn't stop Russell from spending time with his family. Two Sundays ago, Russell finished a 5k mud run through the pain.
"He's over there encouraging my mom and sister, 'We're gonna make some kind of place!'" laughed Pauline. "Then more towards the end [he said], 'I just don't wanna be last!'"
Just a few days after that mud run, Pauline said Russell took what he thought was Norco painkillers for relief. Pauline doesn't know where he got the fake Norco pills from, but she knows he did have a prescription.
"If that was whatever he took, the fake Norcos, to relieve some pain, I hope it did," said Pauline. "But he didn't take that knowing he was never gonna wake up again."
Russell was found unresponsive and rushed to UC Davis Hospital. Although Russell is gone and his family is hurting, they're still thinking of the people who tried to keep Russell alive.
"I know there was a lot of people working on him," Pauline said. "They can be removed because it's not family and they have to make objective decisions, but knowing how many people and how hard they tried...it really makes me happy."
Russell's funeral will be at noon on Friday, April 8, at the Klumpps Chapel of Flowers on Riverside Blvd. The family is opening it up to the public because they say Russell had so many friends they didn't even know.
A GoFundMe page has also been set up to help with funeral costs and care for Russell's daughter.