In the first nine months of 2017, more than 40 overdose deaths in San Diego County were caused by the synthetic opiate drug, fentanyl. The final number of lives lost to use of the drug in 2017 is expected to double 2016’s number and quadruple the number of fentanyl-related overdose deaths that occurred in the county in 2014.
While overdose deaths have become an increasing problem in San Diego County over the past 10 years, the problem first hit the spotlight due to skyrocketing rates of painkiller abuse and addiction. As legislation and prescription limits were adjusted to address the problem, overdose rates continued to climb but the drug of choice was now heroin.
Today, it is fentanyl that is the primary cause of concern when it comes to drug overdose deaths in San Diego County. A substance that is 50 times more potent than heroin and therefore deadly in very small amounts, fentanyl is increasingly found in street drugs, including heroin and cocaine, and in black market pills.
Mark Conover is Deputy US Attorney. He said: “People from San Diego are dying from fentanyl every day. What is scary about fentanyl is the incredible trajectory. The rise in fentanyl users and the sad reality of the rise in people dying from fentanyl. It can be up to 100 times more potent than morphine.”
Though some try to blame the problem on San Diego’s proximity to the US/Mexican border and use it as a reason to support a wall being built between the two countries, much of the country’s fentanyl supply comes from China. Use of the drug, no matter its place of origin, is not a problem that can be solved by putting up barriers. Rather, an increase of positive support for those who are in crisis will have a far greater impact on the problem overall, especially in San Diego.
A Positive Response
For San Diego families who are facing the threat of overdose due to an ongoing opiate addiction in a loved one, there are a number of opportunities to engage in a positive response to the problem with the goal of stopping overdose before it starts. These options include:
- Naloxone: A medication that is able to stop the effects of opiate overdose if it is administered correctly, in time, and in the right dose, naloxone (or Narcan) can save lives. In order to be effective, though, the medication must be in the hands of friends and family members, store proprietors, and first responders who are most frequently first on the scene of an overdose.
- Medication-assisted treatment: For those who are ready to begin the process of treatment, and for whom a “cold turkey detox” is not an option, medication-assisted treatment may be a solid choice. Clients can take buprenorphine, methadone, or another medication to help them turn their attention to therapy and other positive interventions that will assist them in avoiding illicit drug use and overdose.
- Treatment: The only way to guarantee against an opiate overdose is to never abuse an opiate substance again or use these drugs in combination with other substances. When addiction is an issue, this is impossible without engaging in a comprehensive treatment program to lay a strong foundation in sobriety.
- Aftercare and support: Treatment is not a cure-all for addiction. Ongoing engagement with recovery and persistent hard work is the best way to sustain sobriety for the long-term and continually fend off relapse.
What Is Your Response?
It is not easy to acknowledge that you, or your loved one, are living with a life-threatening situation every single day, to take steps to find out what choices can resolve the problem, and then make those choices. If you are in the beginning stages of that process, there are people who can assist you. Take the time today to explore your options in recovery, find out what needs to be done to enroll in treatment, and begin the process of eliminating the risk of overdose now.