Briefing Room: Fentanyl deaths spike in Orange County

Hi Seal Beach!

This week I’m back to share some important information. Sadly, across the country, and even more so locally in Orange County, we’ve seen a spike in the number of overdose deaths related to fentanyl. (See related story)

According to the DEA ( “Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50-100 times stronger than morphine. Pharmaceutical fentanyl was developed for pain management treatment of cancer patients, applied in a patch on the skin. Because of its powerful opioid properties, Fentanyl is also diverted for abuse. Fentanyl is added to heroin to increase its potency, or be disguised as highly potent heroin. Many users believe that they are purchasing heroin and actually don’t know that they are purchasing fentanyl – which often results in overdose deaths. Clandestinely-produced fentanyl is primarily manufactured in Mexico.”

When ingested, fentanyl produces effects such as relaxation, euphoria, pain relief, sedation, confusion, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, urinary retention, pupillary constriction, and respiratory depression.

So why is this a problem? Well, because fentanyl is so much more powerful than other opioid drugs, people who misuse, or abuse, the drug, will occasionally ingest way too much. What’s worse is that people who manufacture, distribute, and sell, illicit drugs will often mix or lace other substances with fentanyl, or create fake prescription pills that actually contain fentanyl instead of another type of pain medication. A person may take two pills which they believe are Vicodin, or another pain killer, and inadvertently overdose on fentanyl. The whole situation is incredibly sad.

In Orange County, the fentanyl crisis is getting worse.Across the county, we’ve seen teenagers take what they believe are Xanax pills, when they are in fact counterfeit pills containing a deadly amount of fentanyl.

According to the Orange County Coroner’s Office, fentanyl fatalities continue to rise:

• 2019 – 148 fatalities

• 2020 – 429 fatalities

• 2021 – 684 fatalities

Of course, the best way to avoid being exposed to fentanyl is to not use illicit drugs, and make sure your medications are prescribed from a physician and come from a legitimate pharmacy.If you are a parent, please educate your kids about these dangers and explain why they should not take any pills, whether marked or unmarked, at a party or from other kids.If you know someone struggling with drug addiction, help is available.The Orange County Alcohol and Drug Education and Prevention Team (ADEPT) consists of health educators and contracted community- and school- based agencies to support healthy communities by implementing prevention services aimed at reducing alcohol and other drug use in Orange County. For more information, call the ADEPT main office at (714) 834-4058 or visit

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