Fentanyl Overdoses Have Tripled in San Diego County

Parents are finding their children dead from fentanyl overdoses, boyfriends are finding their girlfriends dead, and children are being put at risk by this alarming spike. We’ve been sounding this alarm for years, but the problem is only getting worse.”  ~ Summer Stephan, San Diego District Attorney

In 2019, there were “only” 151 fatal fentanyl overdoses in San Diego. But in 2020, that number more than tripled, killing 461 local residents. Even more alarming, estimates from the San Diego Medical Medical Examiner’s Office predict that 2021’s casualties will be much worse, perhaps as high as 700 deaths.

During any given week, the Narcotics Task Force Team will respond to as many as half a dozen fentanyl-related emergencies, most of them fatal. The sheer magnitude of this drug threat has local law enforcement officials concerned.

Roxanna Kennedy, President of the San Diego County Police Chiefs’ and Sheriffs’ Association, says, “As first responders, law enforcement officers see firsthand the destruction of drug overdose and the devastation it causes to families. People are dying every day.

Why are Fentanyl Deaths in San Diego Skyrocketing?

Mexican drug cartels have capitalized on the opioid epidemic and prescription drug misuse by flooding the United States with mass quantities…” ~ the Drug Enforcement Administration

The major factor driving the deadly fentanyl threat in San Diego is its proximity to Mexico and the superlabs located there. The 2020 National Drug Threat Assessment reports that the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation drug cartels have largely taken over the production and distribution of illicit fentanyl.

The reach of these cartels is so vast that greater than 90% of all illegal drugs in the United States enter this country from Mexico.

This matters locally because there are three Points of Entry in the San Diego-Tijuana Metropolitan Area. In fact, the San Ysidro Port of Entry is one of the busiest land crossings in the world. Every day, 20,000 pedestrians and 70,000 vehicles pass through San Ysidro into the U.S.

What You See May Not Be What You Get

While buyers may think they’re getting cocaine, oxy or Xanax, in reality they’re playing a high stakes game of Russian roulette. When it comes to fentanyl, there’s no truth in advertising and you can forget about quality control. Hundreds of unknowing buyers end up ingesting a deadly dose of fentanyl, which has left scores of grieving San Diego families in its wake this year.” ~ Robert Brewer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of California

The second major factor is the common cartel practice of cutting/substituting fentanyl with/for other drugs, completely without informing the users or even the dealers. This is a practical economic decision on the part of the cartels.

Fentanyl is completely synthetic – it is made in a laboratory instead of processed from the opium poppy. In terms of manpower, time, land, and cash, fentanyl is much cheaper to manufacture than heroin.

Foreign drug cartels also use illegal pill presses to create counterfeit versions of black market medications. Unsuspecting users take what looks exactly like OxyContin, Percocet, Xanax, or some other prescription drug, but is in reality, potentially lethal fentanyl.

Fentanyl is virtually indistinguishable from heroin and other opioids without a chemical test. Because it is 50 times more potent than 100% pure laboratory grade heroin, a fatal dose is measured in micrograms.

Trying to Save Lives

If you spend time with someone who uses drugs or are a drug user, the County strongly encourages you to carry naloxone with you.” ~ Dr. Luke Bergmann, Director of Behavioral Health Services, County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency

Earlier this year, in an attempt to address the rising tide of fentanyl deaths, San Diego County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten ordered expanded access to naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug commonly known as Narcan.

Even before the order, California was already one of only 24 states that allow physicians and pharmacists to write and dispense naloxone prescriptions to people who are not personally at risk of an overdose. Typically, these third-party prescriptions are written for family members, friends, or anyone else who is in close contact with at-risk individuals.

But now in San Diego County, Dr. Wooten’s Naloxone Standing Order makes this life-saving nasal spray free to everyone, without a prescription.

The Bottom Line About Fentanyl in San Diego

It is alarmingly clear that fentanyl is the biggest drug threat in San Diego – and actually in the entire country. Even if you think you are safe, using ANY illicit drug is literally a life-or-death game of chance.

The best thing you can do for yourself, your family, and your future is to stop abusing drugs. But if you find that too hard to do on your own, maybe you need specialized professional help.

In Southern California, your first and best resource is Lasting Recovery, the top outpatient rehab program in San Diego. Lasting Recovery uses evidence-based treatment strategies that help you heal and allows you to safely and successfully regain your long-term sobriety.

For a confidential assessment or for more information contact Lasting Recovery today.

Lasting Recovery – “Where Wellness Begins…”

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