It was the summer of 2018 when then 23-year-old Alex Nava got his hands on his first little blue pill, a prescription-strength dose of oxycodone.
Within months, Nava had become addicted.
“[He] tried to stop using and couldn't on his own," said Lisa Nava, Alex's mom. "By December 2018 he was so involved we had to get him into rehab.”
He spent 40 days at an inpatient treatment program. Two weeks after he came home he began using again.
"When he was released in March he was only alive for three weeks after that because he relapsed and it was laced with fentanyl,” Nava said.
Alex's body was found inside a friend's car in April.
Since then his mother Lisa Nava has founded the Addiction Awareness Initiative, a support group for families mourning a loved one lost to drug addiction.
"This is a club that no mom or family wants to be a part of,” Nava said.
According to new data released by the CDC, between April 2020 and April 2021 more than 100,000 people died by overdose. This is the first time in U.S. history numbers reach six digits. More than half of the deaths involved fentanyl.
"I can tell you anecdotally that in my community, in Encinitas, we have a higher rate of overdoses than the county of San Diego from heroin and fentanyl," said Nava. "Just in our small coastal community, one of our members of the addiction awareness initiative has 19 friends who have passed away since 2019.”
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 more times more potent.
"I think people still don't understand how dangerous fentanyl is," said William Perno, senior prevention specialist at SAY San Diego.
SAY San Diego focuses on drug prevention in our community. Perno says fentanyl has become more and more prevalent in our county in recent years.
"As of July 14 2021 in San Diego County, the number was 413 for overdose deaths that were presumptively positive for fentanyl poisoning," said Perno. "Those numbers need to go through final toxicology screening. But to put that number in perspective, in 2020 we had a record number of fentanyl deaths in San Diego county of 462 and as of July 14, we're already at 413."
He says the group predicts numbers to be in the range of 750 by the end of the year.
"My message to the kids that are involved in the bar scene: Do not take any prescription medication from anyone," said Nava. "Don't buy the drugs on the street because over 85% of the drugs on the street are tainted with fentanyl.”
A warning to parents and kids that could potentially save lives.