By Rick Sallinger

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– There have been three deaths recently along the Front Range of people in their late teens or early 20s. Those deaths have led to a stern warning from Boulder and Broomfield County authorities, “Be careful what you buy on the streets.”

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The three were classified as “unattended deaths” in Boulder, Broomfield and Lafayette. Drug overdoses are suspected.

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The fear is that drugs including Xanax and oxycodone may be laced with fentanyl, 100 times more powerful than heroin.

Jacob Merrion knows the danger. He was hooked for years on street drugs.

“For me, it was just looking for that feeling of trying to feel better and looking for that next substance to help me get through the day and cope with my problems,” he told CBS4’s Rick Sallinger. He says people feel it’s worth the risk.

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“Lots of pill use in my history and on a couple of those occasions I woke up in the hospital not knowing how I got there,” Merrion said.

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He is now a sober house manager for Step Denver, a multi-step program for drug and alcohol abusers.

Meghan Shay, development director for Step Denver says the warning is important, “I think any time you make the public aware of the severity of the risk that they face if they use these drugs if they may lose their life the first time they take it that may be a motivator.”

Another motivator is arrests. The Northern Colorado Drug Task recovered more than 1,000 black market Xanax pills while taking several people into custody last week. The arrests are not believed linked to the fentanyl warning.

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Here is a startling statistical analysis: deaths from drug overdoses now outnumber those killed in auto accidents, according to the National Safety Council.

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LINK: Step Denver

Rick Sallinger