Fentanyl Seizures At San Diego Border Are Higher Than Ever
Almost 3,000 pounds of fentanyl in San Diego County between March and May, a 300% increase from the same time last year. Authorities describe the uptick in drug seizures due to a joint effort between law enforcement agents working in San Diego’s port. Customs and Border Protection agents have been working with Homeland Security to hunt down drug traffickers and stop them in their tracks.
San Diego Port Drug Seizures
A two-month-long enforcement effort netted a huge number of drugs. The busts, which took place over two months, netted 4,721 pounds of fentanyl and 1,700 pounds of fentanyl precursors. These drugs were headed to the streets to be pressed into pills. Instead, more than 200 arrests of alleged smugglers took place, and the government seized these drugs.
San Diego is a central hub for drug trafficking, leading to many people to addiction within the city and county. Addiction has been a significant issue in San Diego, as it has been in many other parts of the United States. The town has a complex history of addiction spanning several decades.
History of Addiction in San Diego
Drugs have always been an issue in San Diego. In the 1960s, the city grappled with heroin addiction. During the 1990s, the town had a surge of people who struggled with crack cocaine addiction and the violence associated with that. In the 2000s, however, the city succumbed to the addiction crisis caused by opioids.
Like many others, the city is still grappling with an opioid crisis. The rise of potent synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, has resulted in a surge in overdose deaths. The accessibility of these powerful substances often sold illicitly, has exacerbated the addiction problem, and strained public health resources.
Substance use among the homeless population has become a pressing issue in San Diego. Homelessness and addiction are interconnected problems. Many individuals often turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism. San Diego has implemented various programs and initiatives to address homelessness and substance abuse simultaneously, focusing on harm reduction, treatment, and housing solutions.
Recent Seizures Reflect Concerted Effort to Fight Fentanyl in San Diego and Beyond
“We are an epicenter for fentanyl trafficking into the United States, and we know the immense responsibility that we bear to address this crisis,” U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said about the recent Blue Lotus Operation. “We are answering that call to action with hard work, a purpose, and a plan. Every milligram of fentanyl that we seize, and every smuggler, trafficker, and dealer we bring to justice, means less fatal doses on the streets of San Diego and beyond.”
During the operation, Homeland Security deployed eighty agents to work on drug trafficking in San Diego. In San Diego County, the two-month surge has resulted in a 300 percent increase in fentanyl seizures. There was also a 30 percent increase in defendants prosecuted for fentanyl-related crimes in the Southern District of California compared to last year.
The Blue Lotus Operation also seized fentanyl, which also tested positive for xylazine, creating a dangerous drug called “tranq dope” that leaves people physically addicted and causes gaping sores when they use it. The White House recently designated the combination of xylazine and fentanyl as an emerging threat to the United States on its growing role in overdose deaths. Xylazine is still a relatively new drug, but when a person overdoses, they may not wake up. Narcan has limited value in overdose reversal when a person has taken xylazine. It can help reverse the fentanyl overdose, but xylazine is a sedative, and there is currently no antidote to the drug.
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Recently, a new law was added to the California books that requires public schools to keep a steady supply of Narcan, also known as Naloxone, in their emergency supplies. The opioid overdose reversal drug has become a vital public health tool as the drug supply has been inundated with fentanyl. However, schools aren’t the only way that Narcan has saved lives. People who don’t use opioids but live in California have begun to take the harm-reducing measure into their own hands. Several community members spoke recently to the LA Times to describe how they have helped save lives by carrying it on them when they’re out in their communities.
What Is Naloxone, And How Can You Carry It?
Naloxone, known chiefly by its brand name, Narcan, is an opioid-overdose reversal tool approved by the FDA. People who want to carry Naloxone on hand or keep it in their homes face few barriers thanks to California legislation.
The Department of Health Services in your county will be able to distribute fentanyl to people who want to carry it. LA County has made it a mission to hand out 50,000 doses in a year, including people living in encampments uniquely positioned to save drug-using peers.
People who don’t use drugs are still often in a position to save lives. Family members often come across an unconscious relative and try to administer CPR. Naloxone is the only thing that can reverse the effects of an overdose. Many parents and spouses of addicted persons now keep Naloxone in their homes in case of emergency.
Fentanyl Is a Public Health Emergency
Fentanyl has caused an uptick in deaths for Californians in the past three years. It's been found as an additive in almost every type of street drug. In 2021, 625 people died of an overdose in San Francisco, an uptick of 41%. So many people in the community see carrying Narcan as a way to help others stay alive long enough to find recovery. EMTs, people in recovery from addiction, and other empathetic people have revived overdose victims and helped them stay alive.
Narcan is just one tool to help fight the fentanyl epidemic. However, it’s a powerful one – saving a life is a priceless task. Once a person has been revived, they still need medical attention. Most likely, they will be given drug treatment options when in the ER. Some of them will take the chance and decide to get sober. Others will take a little longer.
Treatment centers and sober living homes in California stock Narcan as a preventative measure.
When a person is still alive and breathing, the chance for recovery is always there.
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Many people can stay sober in recovery with the help of a treatment program and support system. Opioid use disorder (OUD) is a particularly insidious disorder. People who need help with OUD usually benefit from detox, treatment, and sometimes Medication-Assisted Treatment. Relapse among opioid users is common, sadly. But relapse can also be part of a success story, too. Getting back up and staying in recovery is an option.
People with OUD get sober and start their recovery journey every day. For those new to recovery, relapse can still be an issue. Fentanyl poses serious challenges for people who may relapse.
Opioid Use Disorder and Fentanyl
Opioid use disorder is a disorder of the brain. When the brain is deprived of opioids, a person who uses them will experience cravings and withdrawal symptoms. People with access to Medication-Assisted Treatment typically experience minimal symptoms, making their sobriety success rates higher.
People with opioid use disorder often use different opioids, ranging from heroin to morphine. Fentanyl, however, is a drug that is more dangerous than morphine. It can be 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine and has a high overdose fatality rate.
Opioids are dangerous enough because they are so addictive. When people use one dosage for a period, they grow tolerance and need more drugs to get the same effects. With fentanyl, this can mean certain death. Fentanyl is responsible for up to 80% of opioid overdose deaths. Much of it is made by drug dealers in a garage or lab, and there are no quality or safety checks.
People who use other drugs may still end up using fentanyl. The DEA has said that 26% of trafficked pills, often purported to be something else, contain a deadly amount of fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a dangerous narcotic, and an opioid-naïve user can accidentally overdose when digesting even a tiny amount.
Fentanyl and Other Opioid Use
Many people with opioid use disorder start taking drugs like Oxycontin and later take morphine or heroin as their supply dwindles. The pandemic also caused supply chain issues for the world of illegal narcotics. Because of this, people who were addicted to one type of opioid sometimes had to settle for another drug that they may not have been familiar with.
For many people who are addicted to opioids, it’s challenging to quit. If a person who uses Percocet or another less potent opioid switches to fentanyl suddenly, their body may not be able to handle it. Fentanyl, when mixed with other drugs, can also have an exaggerated effect. In both cases, a person’s breathing and pulse may slow. If they stop breathing, they will die.
Narcan, an opioid-overdose reversal drug, is an essential tool that can save lives. People who have ingested deadly amounts of fentanyl often need multiple canisters of the drug to help reverse an overdose. They also need to be monitored in the hospital.
Relapse, Opioid Use Disorder, and Fentanyl Dangers
Relapse is often a part of a person’s recovery journey. That’s only true, however, if the addicted person is lucky enough to make it back to recovery. People who relapse on drugs have higher overdose death rates. It’s not always an easy journey back to sobriety for some people.
People who overdose on drugs often try to go back to the amount of drugs they were doing when they got sober. However, when the drug a person is using is an opioid, this can be a deadly lapse in judgment. This is true for people who use other drugs, such as cocaine, that can also be spiked with deadly fentanyl.
Many people in the US who use drugs remain unaware of the dangers of fentanyl-tainted drugs. As a result, it’s becoming a danger to anyone who uses drugs recreationally or buys them from illicit sources. More education and prevention efforts are needed from a public health perspective.
Sober Living Can Help You Stay on Track
Relapse doesn’t have to be a part of anyone’s recovery journey. Building a solid support network and learning the foundations of the 12-step program can help you stay sober, a day at a time. Sober living homes help add structure and give independence in early recovery. Learn more about our sober living programs by calling 760-216-2077.
Fentanyl is a dangerous public health hazard across America, becoming ubiquitous as an additive to street drugs. People who use Molly, crystal meth, and even marijuana may encounter the drug accidentally. Illicit drug users are not always careful, especially those who use drugs they consider "light" or recreational. While fentanyl is everywhere, not everyone who uses illicit drugs knows about it. This means many unsuspecting users risk being killed by the drugs they consume. Sadly, it's happening across the age spectrum, from high school to the elderly.
Fentanyl Overdoses, COVID-19 as Parallel Crises
Since the pandemic's beginning in 2020, more than 165,000 people have died from opioid overdoses. Over a million people have died from COVID-19. Because of this, three years of life expectancy has been lost among Americans collectively.
Now more than ever, fentanyl is a problem. It's become a common additive to street drugs not generally associated with opioids. Many people think they are taking party drugs or even stimulants like cocaine or crystal meth, only to be exposed to a toxic dose of fentanyl. Some of them overdose. Others may become addicted. Fentanyl is a potent drug, 50-100 times stronger than morphine. But it has also become a favorite among opioid users in California, especially in San Francisco's Tenderloin district.
With fentanyl use spiraling out of control, so are the opioid deaths among specific populations. Opioid overdoses among Black and BIPOC adults are increasing disproportionately in some parts of the country. In other parts of the country, such as California and Florida, a more significant proportion of people dying from overdoses are White. And the ages of the overdose victims tend to be younger adults, with almost 60% of OD deaths younger than 45 years old. However, no matter the demographics, it appears that fentanyl is at fault.
Counterfeit Drugs Also Driving Fentanyl OD Trends
Counterfeit pills have become such a problem that Los Angeles has created an entire campaign surrounding counterfeit pills. The slogan for the campaign is "Bad meds kill real people." The campaign aims to educate, prevent, and enforce the law regarding counterfeit pills that could be made from fentanyl.
"The manufacturers of these counterfeit medicines only care about making money at the expense of our most vulnerable communities and community members," Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said at a press conference this week. "These medicines contain no active pharmaceutical ingredients." Instead, the medications often contain a deadly dose of fentanyl.
Streety drugs that have been found that contain fentanyl include marijuana, cocaine, crystal meth, Molly/MDMA, LSD, Adderall, and cocaine.
Preventing Fentanyl Overdoses Is a Community Effort
Harm reduction and making treatment available are essential components of keeping people safe in the community. For example, harm reduction programs can campaign for public spaces such as libraries, community centers, and schools to carry Narcan, the opioid overdose reversal drug.
Recovery is also an option for people who use substances. A treatment program, including Medication-Assisted Treatment, can also help people quit taking risks and get sober for the long term. Sobriety has many advantages for people with substance abuse disorder, including better health and peace of mind.
Sober Living In San Diego
San Diego has a thriving recovery community with many vibrant 12-step meetings. In addition, our sober homes offer community, structure, and a sober lifestyle as you continue your recovery journey. Learn more about our programs by calling us at 760-216-2077.
Coping with the youth fentanyl overdose crisis has been scary. California has experienced a flurry of fentanyl-related overdoses within high schools. The dangers are real enough tschoolshool are going to be required to keep Naloxone, the opioid reversal drug, on hand by law. This new law aims to tackle the epidemic of fentanyl overdoses.
California recently passed Assembly Bill 19, requiring schools to keep the lifesaving drug naloxone on hand in case of accidental fentanyl overdoses. Unfortunately, high schools around the country have been experiencing this. In October, a student overdosed at a Los Angeles school during regular class hours. A few weeks later, Prince George's County, across the US, Maryland suffered a string of overdoses in public high schools.
California Needs To Cope With Fentanyl Influx
California, in its quest to slow and end the opioid epidemic, is trying to tackle every angle. The new law would require schools in California to have at least two doses of emergency drugs such as a naloxone inhaler or canister. However, two doses may not be enough if a student overdoses on pure fentanyl. Most students who have overdosed don't even realize that their drug could be tainted, and their bodies can't handle
Fentanyl has been found in all street drugs, from cocaine and meth to Oxy and heroin. However, prevention of overdoses starts with education, and there seems to be a deficit when it comes to kids understanding the dangers of tainted street drugs.
Getting Naloxone for Fentanyl Overdoses into the Schools
No one wants to think of schools as a place where young possessing drugs. But that has always been the reality, regardless of the measures schools and local law enforcement take to prevent it. Many students who overdose don't know what they are taking- California is flush with fentanyl and counterfeit pills.
Schools are a place where drug education and mitigation can take place. But they are also where kids sell and swap drugs in their spare time. Adding naloxone to schools to prevent overdoses was a bipartisan measure with little opposition. The issue will come down to funding and costs. Fentanyl can be costly to keep in stock.
California has had trouble funding other programs that help with opioid use disorder. There have been wait lists for supplies of naloxone, an opioid-overdose reversal drug that can help save lives. It's recommended that anyone who uses opioids or takes them regularly should keep a supply of Naloxone on hand in case of accidental overdose. This means that schools will havesavekeep a steady supply and money will be needed.
Which Schools Need To Prevent Fentanyl Overdoses?
Fentanyl is a threat to all high schools and junior high schools. Young people frequently experiment with drugs without knowing the hazards. Naloxone will be required on all of the more than 10,000 K-12 campuses in California once the bill is signed into law. Implementation would begin with middle and high schools.
Some larger school districts in Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Fresno already stock naloxone, but for the plan to succeed, the state must fund the initiative. Naloxone can be expensive, especially when it needs restocking.
Legislators also want to be able to offer schools naloxone training, opioid abuse education, and fentanyl education. Many young people don't know about the dangers of street drugs when it comes to fentanyl. Adding education to student health classes can help save lives.
Living Substance-Free in San Diego
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In May 2022, a three-year-old child died from fentanyl ingestion in a home in San Luis Obispo. Like many California overdoses, it took months to conduct a full medical examination. Police now say they have enough information on the child’s death to charge the mother criminally. Authorities have announced they plan to charge the child’s mother, 30-year-old Jennifer Mae Niemann, with reckless endangerment.
Fentanyl Overdose Incidents Among Children Becoming Common
On May 4, 2022, police responded to a phone call about a child that was turning blue and not breathing. Emergency personnel arrived and found the unresponsive child. EMTs from the fire department began lifesaving efforts and took the child to the hospital. However, all lifesaving efforts failed. He was pronounced dead later in the day. Toxicology results later showed the child had died from a fentanyl overdose.
Ms. Niemann, the child’s mother, was apparently careless with fentanyl, and due to her actions, the child got ahold of it, resulting in his death. So far, the police have not explained how the child got ahold of the fentanyl. It will likely come up at trial.
Drug overdose deaths involving children aren’t rare. They happen nationwide. They are almost always accidental. States as far away as Kansas had record overdoses for minors in 2020, with 16 teen deaths. Last September, a mother in Iowa was charged with murder when her 22-month-old child died of an overdose.
Ms. Niemann, the mother whose child died in her care in San Luis Obispo, is being held in county jail on four criminal charges. She is being charged with “child endangerment with great bodily injury, enhancement for causing great bodily injury during a commission of a felony, possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) and possession of a controlled substance (fentanyl).” Her bail has been set at half a million dollars.
Fentanyl Is a Deadly Drug
Fentanyl is one of the most potent pain medications in the medical industry. Yet it’s becoming more commonly used as a pain medication, party drug, or adulterant. Many people who ingest fentanyl don’t know that they’re taking it. Fentanyl has become a common adulterant among street drugs, especially drugs sold through anonymous apps. Fentanyl in California has been found in a myriad of drugs seized by police, including cocaine and Molly.
People have accidentally overdosed on fentanyl when they thought they were taking Molly, cocaine, and club drugs. For people who don’t use opioids, this can cause trouble breathing and can make their heart stop. Over 100,000 people died from opioid use disorder in 2021. The majority of these overdoses involved fentanyl. Many of them may have had fentanyl as a contaminant.
People who use opioids are at high risk for overdoses. Fentanyl is a potent drug and can cause significant withdrawal symptoms that make going “cold turkey” nearly impossible. A clinical detox, and treatment, including Medication-Assisted Treatment can help with these issues when a person first gets sober.
Getting Help, And Sober Housing
If you or somebody you love is addicted to fentanyl or other opioids, help is available. Treatment and detox can help you reclaim your life, and sober housing can give you stability.
Many people who go to drug detox and treatment choose sober housing as the next step in recovery. We offer safety, security, and community for you as you begin your journey in recovery. Give us a call at 760-216-2077 to learn more about our programs.
Fentanyl seizures at border continue to spike, according to the U.S. Department of Justice making San Diego a national epicenter for fentanyl trafficking. According to the DOJ release, more deadly fentanyl is being seized by border officials in San Diego and Imperial counties than at any of the nation’s 300-plus ports of entry, making this federal district an epicenter for fentanyl trafficking into the United States.
High Schools are Reporting Ever-Increasing Fentanyl Deaths
The San Diego Union Tribune reported recently about a California high school that made arrests after a student overdosed on fentanyl pills on campus during school. Notably the perpetrator used social media to market the pills. Using social media channels (like Snapchat) to market fentanyl laced pills is increasingly common, especially among teens, and often with predictably tragic effects
Fentanyl is Hyper-Potent and Deadly
Researchers have sounded an alarm for the past few years about the rise in overdose deaths involving fentanyl. The majority of overdoses now involve the drug, which is 50-100 times as powerful as Morphine. Overdoses that involve fentanyl are usually deadlier because of the potency of the drug.
For people who have an opioid use disorder, there are many risks to take when buying drugs. Regular drug supply chains are strained, and China has outlawed the manufacture of oxycodone (aka Oxycontin) and fentanyl. Because of this, chemists that rely on illicit drug sales have been offering fentanyl either as an adulterant or alternative to other opioids. Chinese drugmakers funnel fentanyl through the Mexico border, and from there, it makes its way into heroin, Oxy, and other street (and internet) drug dealers.
FENTANYL OVERDOSES ARE GETTING YOUNGER
Roneet Lev, an emergency room physician at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, California, told Bloomberg that most of the overdose deaths she’s seen in teens are accidental overdoses. One of her young patients, 14 years old, died from a fentanyl overdose.
“The problem is both supply and demand,” she said. “There’s already a lot of fentanyl coming into our market, and now we have a pandemic where people are isolated and not working, or not in school. These teenagers probably don’t have a substance use disorder, they’re experimenting, making a bad choice, and they end up dead.”
EDUCATION AND PREVENTION EFFORTS
Many cities and nonprofits say that harm reduction is an integral part of tackling the opioid epidemic. After all, many of the young people who are dying don’t even mean to take fentanyl. They often believe they’re taking a pill such as Percocet, Adderall, Ecstacy, etc. It may be the first time they have ever taken a drug at all.
Many law enforcement agencies are trying to get the word out about counterfeit pills and the dangers of fentanyl.
Some nonprofits offer fentanyl testing strips as a harm reduction measure that can test drugs for the presence of fentanyl. Then, the user can decide if they want to take it or flush it. Narcan, an overdose reversal drug, is also available to people who use opioids and other concerned community members. Carrying this drug can help reverse fatal overdoses, but when it’s a drug like fentanyl, reversal may require multiple doses of Narcan.
STAYING SOBER IN SOBER HOUSING
If you or somebody you love needs a safe living space to continue their recovery journey, sober housing may be the answer. We have an excellent, enthusiastic, peaceful environment where you can learn to live life on its terms, substance-free. Call us to learn more about our programs at 760-216-2077. Our treatment team is also very familiar with recovery from fentanyl and other opioids.