San Diego County

San Diego Region Sees Rise in Unintentional Fentanyl Deaths

“I can’t even remember the last time I saw a death from misused prescribed fentanyl"

Fentanyl file

The number of people who have died after an accidental fentanyl overdose is nearly 70 percent higher this year than last, the San Diego County Medical Examiner (ME) said Wednesday.

The ME suspects the deadly overdoses are linked to an increase in counterfeit opioids rather than those legally obtained by prescription, a shift from the last decade where many accidental overdose deaths were from prescribed medication.

“I can’t even remember the last time I saw a death from misused prescribed fentanyl," ME Dr. Steven Campman said.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is lethal at even the smallest doses. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 25 to 50 times stronger than heroin.

From January 2019 to June 2019 there were 69 fentanyl-related overdoses. That's up from 41 deaths during the same time last year, the ME said.

Dr. Campman says illegal drug makers and dealers turn the fentanyl into a pill to make it look like legitimate oxycodone or alprazolam.

“The drug isn’t designed to be put in a pill like that and it takes very little of it to kill someone," Campman said. "The illicit drug makers don’t have the kind of quality control measures that pharmaceutical companies have either.”

A total of 92 people died overall in 2018 from fentanyl overdose. The county says they anticipate this year's statistics to exceed last year's.

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