The American way of death –
Now, 2020 – Overdose deaths have spiked in San Diego County this year, as an already worsening drug epidemic collides with the coronavirus pandemic. Over the summer, that amounted to an average of three deaths a day.
Part of the increase is attributed to the illicit drug supply getting deadlier as traffickers increasingly rely on fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid. It is either laced into traditional street drugs or sold as counterfeit prescription pills similar to the ones that ended Alexander’s life. But experts say the bleakness of 2020 has played no small part. “I don’t know of anyone who is not impacted by what’s going on,” said Scott Silverman, a crisis coach and founder and CEO of Confidential Recovery, “and someone who suffers from the dependence of self-medication has really found themselves in a precarious position.” Rising threat! The scourge of fentanyl has been a growing focus of public safety and health campaigns for a few years now. Fentanyl, a prescription pain reliever mostly used for surgery or to treat cancer pain, is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and up to 50 times stronger than heroin. Even small amounts can be deadly. Mexican drug cartels widely introduced fentanyl into the illicit street market about five years ago, won over by how cheap and easy the opioid is to manufacture compared to cultivating poppies for heroin. The cartels also seized upon another trend — Americans’ growing appetite for prescription pills. Little blue pills that began showing up on the streets and sold as oxycodone — with the signature “M” and “30” stamps — were actually filled with fentanyl. Fentanyl has also been regularly found in methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and counterfeit Xanax, making the illicit drug supply deadlier overall. Users are oftentimes unable to identify what they are consuming, much less its strength. Batches not mixed thoroughly can contain fatal hotspots of fentanyl. “One pill can kill,” said San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan, “and it has killed many.”
The demographics of the fentanyl crisis in particular are wide-ranging, from a teen at a pill party to a parent self-treating anxiety to a long-time drug user.