Beach Cities Health District identified substance use as a health priority for 2022-25. For more information about the health priorities, visit www.bchd.org/healthreport.
Past Coalition Community Forum
The Beach Cities Partnership for Youth Coalition and South Bay Families Connected hosted an in-person community forum in February 2023. View a recording of the panel discussion and learn the top five takeaways from the forum here.
Know the Facts
What is fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. It is a Schedule II prescription drug; drugs in this classification have a high potential for abuse, which may cause severe psychological or physical dependence. It is also a major contributor to fatal and nonfatal overdoses in the U.S., with 42,687 people overdosing on fentanyl in the 12 months leading up to May 2020.
- Most recent cases of fentanyl-related harm, overdose, and death in the U.S. are linked to illicitly manufactured fentanyl, which is distributed through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effect. It is often mixed with other substances – with or without the user’s knowledge – to increase its euphoric effects.
- In 2021, fentanyl was identified in about 77% of adolescent overdose deaths nationally.
- Overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids (primarily illicitly manufactured fentanyl) rose 55.6% and appear to be the primary driver of the increase in total drug overdose deaths.
- Fentanyl overdose rates are rising 2.5 times faster than heroin overdoses and are outpacing prescription opioid overdoses by 550%.
- Death is certain if 0.002 grams of fentanyl is consumed, which is less than what could fit in a grain of salt.
- Over 150 people die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
- Fentanyl-related overdose deaths among California's youth ages 10-19 years increased from 2018 (36 total) to 2020 (261 total), a 625% increase.
In Los Angeles County
- The number of fentanyl overdose deaths in Los Angeles County has risen every year since routine testing of fentanyl began in May 2016.
- In 2021, fentanyl-related overdose deaths increased to 1,504, a 1,280% jump from 2016 and a 31% increase from the previous year.
Unintentional Fentanyl Poisonings
- Powdered fentanyl looks like many other drugs and is commonly mixed with substances like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, and can be made into pills that resemble other prescription opioids. Fentanyl-laced drugs are extremely dangerous, and many people may be unaware that their drugs contain fentanyl.
- Since fentanyl is colorless and odorless, drugs may contain deadly levels of this highly potent synthetic opioid, resulting in unintentional overdose and death.
- Criminal drug networks are mass-producing counterfeit pills and falsely marketing them as legitimate prescription pills to deceive the American public.
- Fake prescription pills are easily accessible and often sold on social media and e-commerce platforms, making them available to anyone with a smartphone, including minors.
What is Xylazine?
Xylazine is a non-opioid veterinary tranquilizer NOT approved for human use that has been linked to an increasing number of overdose deaths nationwide. Also known as “tranq,” xylazine is a central nervous system depressant that increases the risk of life-threatening overdose when taken in combination with other substances like alcohol, benzodiazepines and fentanyl.
- Xylazine comes in a clear liquid that is cooked down into a powder form and is mixed with illicit opioids such as heroin or fentanyl, or pressed into counterfeit pills (e.g. Norco, Percocet, Xanax) as a cheap additive to increase the effects of these drugs.
- Xylazine can cause drowsiness and amnesia and slow breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure to dangerously low levels.
- Repeated xylazine use is associated with skin ulcers, abscesses and related complications, especially for those administering intravenously.
- Experts are concerned that a growing prevalence of xylazine in the illicit opioid supply may render the emergency opioid reversal medication naloxone less effective, nonetheless naloxone should be administered in the event of a suspected overdose in addition to alerting emergency medical services.
- There is NO test to determine if illicit drugs contain xylazine, therefore the Los Angeles Department of Public Health recommends the safest course of action is to avoid using illicit drugs as the supply has been commonly and unpredictably contaminated with lethal substance such as xylazine and illicitly manufactured fentanyl.
- The Los Angeles Department of Public Health issues an alert on June 20, 2023 warning residents that fentanyl and other illicit narcotics have been found in legitimate pharmacies in Mexico. It is recommended that residents avoid using pills from any sources besides those that come from an FDA-licensed pharmacy or are prescribed by your healthcare provider.
- The Los Angeles Department of Public Health issued an alert on March 8, 2023 to warn residents that xylazine has been detected in drug samples obtained in both San Francisco and San Diego, indicating that it is now likely present within the drug supply in Los Angeles. Most people who are purchasing or being given illicit drugs are not seeking xylazine and likely do not know that it may be present in the drugs they are trying to obtain.
- The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) released a public safety alert on December 21, 2022 warning about the growing threat of xylazine and its mixture with illicit drugs like fentanyl, cocaine and heroin with approximately 23% of fentanyl powder and 7% of fentanyl pills seized by the DEA in 2022 containing xylazine.
- The California Department of Public Health issued an alert to California County and District Superintendents and Charter School Administrators on September 21, 2022, warning about a concerning trend identified by the Drug Enforcement Agency about brightly colored fentanyl (referred to as Rainbow Fentanyl) used by drug traffickers with the intent to appeal to children and young people.
- The Los Angeles Department of Public Health issued a health alert on September 15, 2022, warning the community about counterfeit pills contaminated with fentanyl after four adolescents were found dead from an overdose after purchasing counterfeit narcotic pills.
- The Drug Enforcement Administration recognized the first ever National Fentanyl Awareness Day in 2022, which will take place annually on May 10th. This day is an effort to educate individuals around the danger fentanyl poses to the safety, health and national security of the American people.
What are the signs of an overdose?
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if a person is heavily under the influence or experiencing an overdose. If you’re having a hard time telling the difference, it is best to treat the situation like an overdose – it could save someone’s life.
The following are some symptoms of being under the influence of opioids or benzodiazepines:
- Pupils will contract and appear small
- Muscles are slack and droopy
- Speech may be slurred
- They appear to be falling asleep but will respond to outside stimuli like loud noise or a light shake
The following are signs of an overdose:
- Loss of consciousness
- Unresponsive to outside stimulus
- Awake, but unable to talk
- Breathing is very slow and shallow, erratic or has stopped
- Body is very limp
- Face is very pale, clammy
- Fingernails and lips turn blue or purplish black
- Pulse (heartbeat) is slow, erratic or not there at all
What should you do if you suspect someone is overdosing?
- Shout loudly, “Are you okay? Can you hear me?” to make sure the person is conscious. Apply painful stimuli like rubbing the knuckles against the sternum or applying a fingernail to the nail bed.
- If there is no immediate change in their condition, call 911 immediately. Tell the 911 operator, “I believe this person is overdosing.”
- California’s 911 Good Samaritan Law provides protections for any person experiencing a drug-related overdose, or a person who seeks medical assistance for a person experiencing a drug-related overdose. For more details, read AB 472 here.
Naloxone is a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose. It is an opioid antagonist—meaning that it binds to opioid receptors and can reverse and block the effects of other opioids. It can very quickly restore normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped as a result of overdosing with heroin or prescription opioid pain medications.
For more information on naloxone and how to obtain this potentially lifesaving medication, please visit the California Department of Public Health’s Opioid Prevention Initiative here.
Types of Naloxone:
- Injectable: Liquid form, injectable naloxone is commonly used by paramedics, emergency room doctors and other specially trained first responders.
- Auto-injectable: EVZIO® is a prefilled auto-injection device that makes it easy for families or emergency personnel to inject naloxone quickly into the outer thigh. Once activated, the device provides verbal instruction to the user describing how to deliver the medication, similar to automated defibrillators.
- Intranasal: NARCAN® Nasal Spray is a prefilled, needle-free device that requires no assembly and is sprayed into one nostril while patients lay on their back. Anyone can be trained to use NARCAN®.
- Visit www.bchd.org/resources for health-related information and referrals, or call allcove Beach Cities at (310) 374-5706, Tuesday – Friday: 1 – 7 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
- South Bay Families Connected: The South Bay Families Connected Opioid Awareness project, launched in 2017, aims to reduce the stigma that surrounds opioid addiction by increasing community-wide awareness that opioid abuse, addiction and accidental overdose can happen even in the most supportive families, and to the most loved and inspiring youth. In 2020, the project expanded to include Fentanyl overdose and poisoning education and prevention.
- Teen Program: Torrance Memorial’s Thelma McMillen center offers an affordable, comprehensive and personalized outpatient program for teens ages 13 to 17.
- Partnership to End Addiction: The nation’s leading organization dedicated to addiction prevention, treatment and recovery.
- Freedom4U: Freedom4U helps identify, develop and release the potential of youth into their life purpose by offering peer-driven healthy activities such as creative arts, life skills, service projects and leadership opportunities to youth in the South Bay/Harbor Area of L.A.
- Connecting to Opportunities for Recovery and Engagement (CORE) Center - Community space where everyone can come to get information and resources about how to prevent alcohol and drug use, learn more about substance use disorders (also known as addictions) and find out where to go for free or low-cost treatment services.
- California Department of Public Health – Overdose Prevention Initiative: What is Fentanyl?
- California Department of Public Health – Overdose Prevention Initiative: Resources – Adult Role Models
- Drug Enforcement Administration – What Every Parent and Caregiver Needs to Know About FAKE PILLS
- Drop the F* Bomb with Your Kids - A resource for parents to discuss the dangers of fentanyl with their children and with each other.