Beach Cities Community Forum on Fentanyl
Monday, March 6, 2023

The Beach Cities Partnership for Youth Coalition and South Bay Families Connected hosted an in-person community forum that included a film screening of “Dead on Arrival,” a fentanyl documentary by Dominic Tierno and Christine Wood, followed by a panel discussion with: 

  • Dr. Moe Gelbert, Executive Director at Thelma McMillen Center and Director of Behavioral Health at Torrance Memorial  

  • Paul LeBaron, Police Chief at Hermosa Beach Police Department 

  • Sebastian Martin, Director of Recovery at New Life House 

Here are the top five takeaways from the forum: 

  1. What is fentanyl and what makes it so deadly? 
    • According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, which means just two milligrams (less than what fits in a grain of salt) of this substance is considered a lethal dose (National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics). Most recent cases of fentanyl-related harm, overdose and death in the U.S. are linked to illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF), which is distributed through illegal drug-markets.  
  2. How is illicitly manufactured fentanyl being sold?
    • According to the CDC, illicitly manufactured fentanyl is often mixed with substances like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine without the user’s knowledge. Criminal drug networks are also mass-producing counterfeit pills and falsely marketing them as legitimate prescription pills like OxyContin, Xanax, Adderall and Percocet to deceive the American public, with six out of ten pills confiscated and tested by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 2022 containing a potentially lethal dose of IMF. 
  3. How does social media play a role in this drug crisis? 
    • According to the DEA, criminal drug networks are using social media (like Snapchat) and e-commerce platforms to target consumers, often minors, due to the anonymity of these platforms and accessibility to users’ locations via application features like interactive maps. This allows dealers to find potential buyers in their area through social media accounts and deliver the drugs directly to their location. 
  4. Why are deaths caused by illicitly manufactured fentanyl referred to as "poisonings" versus "overdoses"? 
    • Overdose: When individuals either intentionally or unintentionally consume a large quantity of a desired substance that it is too much for their body to safely process, resulting in harm or death. 
    • Poisoning: When individuals unknowingly consume illicitly manufactured fentanyl due to the deception of drug dealers falsely marketing the product as another substance, leading to unintentional overdose or death. Individuals overdosing and dying from illicitly manufactured fentanyl believe they are consuming a legitimate pharmaceutical pill or other substance like cocaine, but were in fact given a product made from illicitly manufactured fentanyl. 
  5. What is naloxone (Narcan) and how do I get it?  
    • Naloxone is a life-saving medication used to reverse an opioid overdose, including heroin, fentanyl and prescription opioid medications. Narcan is the popular brand of the nasal spray that can be administered by anyone willing to intervene if they suspect someone is showing signs of an overdose. 
    • Visit the California Department of Public Health’s Opioid Prevention Initiative for more information on how to obtain naloxone in California.