San Diego

Deaths from Prescription Drugs Down, Heroin and Fentanyl Up in 2018: County

The county’s annual Prescription Drug Abuse Report Card reports statistics associated with prescription and illicit drug use by year

Prescription drug deaths in San Diego County declined in 2018 but deaths from fentanyl and heroin continued their upward trends, according to the county’s annual Prescription Drug Abuse Report Card.

In 2018, 246 people died from accidental overdoses on prescription drugs compared to 273 the year before. Of those 246 deaths, 210 (85%) were caused by prescription opioids, according to the report card.

Deaths Caused by Prescription Opioids and Non-Opioids: 2008 - 2018

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Prescription Drugs: Opioid vs. Non-Opioid 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
• Prescription Opioids 186 194 188 221 219 208 185 205 207 208 210
• All other Prescriptions (excluding Opioids) 34 43 37 41 50 51 59 43 46 65 36
All Prescription Deaths 220 237 225 262 269 259 244 248 253 273 246

County emergency medical services administered Naloxone, an opioid overdose antidote, 2,113 times last year compared to just 1,903 times in 2017, 1,304 times in 2016, and 1,210 times in 2015.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department started equipping all patrol vehicles with Naloxone in mid-2014. Between the start of 2015 and end of 2018, the SDSO administered the antidote 78 times, including 23 times last year, 26 times in 2017, 16 in 2016, and 13 in 2015.

“Prescription drugs continue to take a toll in our communities,” County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar said. “It’s especially troublesome to see heroin and fentanyl deaths go up as a result of the growing opioid epidemic not just in San Diego but across the country.”

New details were revealed in court today. NBC 7's Gaby Rodriguez has more.

There were 105 heroin deaths in the county last year, which is up from 83 the year before. Ninety people were killed by the drug in 2016 and 2015, and 105 deaths were reported in 2014, the county said. The report card said 11% of adults arrested in 2018 tested positive for heroin, and said 78% of heroin users admitted in treatment programs were between the ages of 26 and 59.

Fentanyl deaths in the county also increased from 2017 to 2018, as they have every year since 2012. There were 92 deaths last year, up from 84 the year before, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office. Thirty-three were reported in 2016, 21 in 2015, 15 in 2014, 14 in 2013, and 12 in 2012.

In early October a chemistry professor was killed and a woman was hospitalized after they overdosed on fentanyl in their University City apartment. Investigators seized enough fentanyl from the apartment to kill 1.5 million people, or nearly the entire city of San Diego, prosecutors said.

Fentanyl is 80 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, according to the DEA.

The DEA is hosting its 18th National Prescription Drug Take Back Day in San Diego on Saturday, Oct. 26. Citizens can drop off unwanted prescription drugs anonymously at various locations throughout the county. Click here for more information.

To read the county's full report card click here.

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