San Diego

Prescription Drug Deaths Jump to Record Highs: 273 Fatalities in San Diego Last Year

County’s Prescription Drug Abuse Report Card confirms what paramedics and police are seeing on our streets. A powerful, illegal street drug also killed dozens of users in 2017.

Ten years after Sandy Nolan's son died of a heroin overdose, the drug abuse problem in San Diego is even worse.

Nolan was a featured speaker at Friday's unveiling of the county’s annual update on drug-related death trends. She spoke tearfully about her son Jerry’s 2008 overdose death.

Nolan also told parents that it’s very hard to detect the early signs of prescription drug abuse. She counseled them to prepare for a long, difficult and sometimes unsuccessful effort to help a loved-one beat their addiction.

“And if you think recovery is as simple as a30-day rehab, it is not,” Nolan said. “My husband and I sent Jerry to rehab four times in a year and a half,” only to see him ultimately defeated by his addiction.

In San Diego county, prescription drug deaths increased 8 percent last year to a total of 273 fatalities.

While deaths from heroin actually decreased, the synthetic opioid fentanyl killed many more addicts.

According to the drug abuse report card, 84 people died from fentanyl overdoses last year compared to 33 deaths in 2016.

Fentanyl is especially dangerous, because it’s 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and at least 25 times stronger than heroin.

That unpredictable potency causes more deaths from accidental fentanyl overdoses.

Drug users are also at risk from cocaine that's been spiked with fentanyl.

But Friday, Nolan and drug addiction counselors focused on prescription painkillers which they warned are a gateway to addiction and street drugs.

They urged parents to properly dispose of unused prescription opiates at drop-boxes throughout the county and to take advantage of drug take-back days, like the one this Saturday.

“There's no reason why somebody should die from medications sitting in a medicine cabinet that someone's not using,” said Scott Silverman of the Safe Home Coalition.

Safe disposal and collection of prescription drugs started in San Diego County 2009 and the practice was adopted nationally in 2010. National Drug Take Back Day is Oct. 27, and you can participate locally sheriff's department facilities.

The San Diego County Sheriff's department has put up safe drop boxes at its stations across the where prescription drugs can be disposed. 

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