Every day, you likely hear or see news about the opioid crisis that is gripping many parts of the nation. Among the most alarming trends is the spike in deaths related to fentanyl, especially in California.
This synthetic opioid, both potent and perilous, has changed the face of the opioid epidemic.
The threat of fentanyl
Fentanyl is an extremely potent synthetic opioid, known to be 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Even a minuscule amount can be lethal. Over the past few years, California has seen a shocking increase in opioid-related deaths. Between 2019 and 2021, deaths related to opioids in the state spiked by 121%. Medical professionals tied the majority of these deaths to fentanyl, often found in counterfeit prescription pills or party drugs, making it hard for users to even know they are consuming it.
You might think the risk lies primarily with chronic drug users, but fentanyl is finding its way into many communities, be it large cities, suburban neighborhoods or rural areas. And, it is not just fentanyl alone. Drug concoctions are evolving, with dealers mixing substances like “tranq,” a potent sedative intended for veterinary use, with fentanyl.
California’s response to the crisis
Given the rising number of overdose deaths, lawmakers in California have jumped into action. They introduced numerous proposals in the recent legislative session to find ways to curb the fentanyl crisis. One prominent solution health experts and harm reduction advocates have championed is the distribution of fentanyl test strips. These strips help users detect if their supply has fentanyl. While some states oppose these strips, fearing they might promote drug use, California takes a different stance by promoting and providing them for free.
But the statistics remain grim. The California Overdose Surveillance Dashboard reported that in a single year, from September 2021 to September 2022, nearly 6,000 people in California died due to fentanyl. That is a staggering 86% of all opioid-related deaths for that period. To put this in perspective, more people in California died from fentanyl overdoses in 2021 than from car accidents.
Hope on the horizon
Efforts are being amplified to combat this crisis. Millions of dollars are being poured into securing and distributing naloxone, a medication that can reverse opioid overdoses. Moreover, Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed manufacturing this life-saving drug under the state’s CalRx initiative to make it more accessible.
As you watch the efforts to curb this epidemic unfold, it is important to stay informed and cautious. Understanding the dangers of fentanyl and how it is changing the landscape of drug abuse in California can help you, and those around you, make safer decisions.