Local and national law-enforcement officials gathered Thursday outside the San Diego County medical examiner's office to deliver a disturbing update on the region's Prescription Drug Report Card.
The trends reveal an alarming uptick, said county district attorney Summer Stephan, especially in fentanyl-related deaths.
"In 2019, there were 151 fentanyl-related deaths in San Diego County," Stephan said. "That number rose to 259 confirmed fentanyl-related deaths -- and 57 that are still under investigation that will likely end up being fentanyl-related."
Stephan -- who was joined by County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar, Sheriff Bill Gore, U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer, San Diego police chief David Nesleit and others, put a face on opioid abuse.
"These deaths are not just numbers," Stephan said. "They are people, they are families. I heard from a mother recently of 21-year-old Jacob, a beautiful young man who felt some anxiety, some depression, and ended up taking a counterfeit pill that was laced with fentanyl and it ended his life."
Some sobering statistics:
- 619% increase in fentanyl-caused deaths between 2015 (21 deaths) to 2019 (151 deaths)
- 19,910 adult drug treatment admissions in 2019. Of these, 3% were due to prescription pain medication
- 124: Number of heroin overdose deaths, a 25% increase in heroin overdose deaths from 2015 (90 deaths) to 2019 (124 deaths)
- The number of unintentional fentanyl deaths increased by 64% from 2018 to 2019, while at the same time prescription drug deaths rose nearly 12%
A couple of more positive developments: The report card showed progress had been made in the misuse of prescription drugs, and officials noted on Thursday that San Diegans turned in a staggering 5-plus tons of prescription drugs in just four hours at 14 sites around the county during the DEA's National Prescription Drug Take Back Day last month.
“On Oct. 24, the DEA collected over 60% more unwanted prescriptions from San Diego County residents than we did at our last Take Back Day in 2019,” Special Agent in Charge John W. Callery said in a news release issued Thursday.
Nationally, the public turned in a staggering 493 tons nationwide during the event.