The synthetic painkiller fentanyl has always carried great risk and is a major contributor to America’s growing overdose rate. And this summer, apparently, it has wreaked some of its greatest havoc yet; at least when it comes to our home region of Southern California.
An NBC affiliate out of San Diego recently published a story, chronicling just how bad fentanyl ODs have become in that area. In fact, because of flurry of fatal overdoses in July, the city’s District Attorney has now issued an official warning.
Summer Stephan serves as San Diego’s D.A. and made a public announcement this week after news broke that the city’s 2020’s fentanyl fatality count has already surpassed the totals for 2019.
“This alarming uptick demonstrates that dealers continue cutting various illegal drugs with fentanyl and now more than ever it’s a recipe for death,” she said. “The public needs to be aware of the danger of using any controlled substance even if packaged like a harmless medicinal pill. Higher overdose numbers tell us there’s likely more product on the street in San Diego that may be laced with deadly fentanyl. I’m urging you to share this potentially life-saving message with your loved ones today.”
Indeed, one of the most dangerous stats surrounding fentanyl is that many people don’t even know that they’re receiving it. As Stephan explained, it can often be laced into other drugs or disguised as a pill; with buyers unaware of its deadly potency.
This year in San Diego, fentanyl related deaths have reached a count of 203. In just eight months, it has surpassed the 2019 total of 152 and trends are showing dozens more deaths could tally up before year’s end. According to the NBC article, victims have ranged in age from 17 to 66; truly emphasizing that this impacts the entire SoCal population.
The warning went on to describe how fentanyl pills may be mislabeled in their “street form.” For example, a deadly batch of the synthetic opioid may be disguised as oxycodone or alprazolam. Officials have claimed that doses as small as two milligrams can prove fatal for most people.
And the fact that people are quarantined and suffering from mental health challenges (such as depression) due to COVID-19 does not help matters. Dr. Luke Bergmann, the county’s Director of Behavioral Health, issued one final call to action when discussing the warning.
“It is critical in this time of mental health vulnerability and social isolation, with pervasive high rates of anxiety and depression, that people with substance use disorder are aware of the heightened risks of fentanyl and that they get access to harm reduction and care services for addiction,” he emphasized.