SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Drug-overdose deaths have tripled since 2000, and opiate abuse now kills more than a hundred Americans a day.
It’s not somewhere else. It's right here on the streets of downtown San Diego and the streets where you live.
10News anchor Kimberly Hunt got rare access into the raw reality in San Diego County. She was given exclusive access to the San Diego County medical examiner’s drug room, exam room and refrigeration room. She saw first-hand the sky-rocketing number of people dying from prescription pills.
As you see in the video, Kimberly takes us into the cold brutality of opiate overdoses in San Diego County.
San Diego’s District Attorney, Summer Stephan says one reason drug deaths have risen sharply in the county is because drug cartels are upping their game. They’re lacing pills with fentanyl, which is 50-100 times more powerful than morphine.
According to Stephan "it’s a killer." It also "alters the brain," leaving users to "crave the drug forever." Stephan has made San Diego’s drug problem a top priority.
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Kimberly also introduces us to a former addict who after 12 years found sobriety. Now - six years later - Robert Weir co-founded Immersive Recovery in San Marcos to help other men kick the addiction, and find fulfillment, success, and purpose.
WHAT ARE OPIATES?
The National Institute of Health described opiates like this:
First morphine, then heroin, then prescription painkillers such as Vicodin, Percocet, and OxyContin. Opium along with all of these derivatives are collectively known as opiates.
Then there are a handful of compounds that act just like opiates but aren't made from the plant. Opiates along with these synthetic drugs - chiefly, methadone and fentanyl - are grouped together into the category of substances called opioids.
Opioid receptors regulate pain and the reward system in the human body. That makes opioids powerful painkillers, but also debilitatingly addictive.
Among the more than 64,000 drug overdose deaths estimated in 2016, the sharpest increase occurred among deaths related to fentanyl and fentanyl analogs (synthetic opioids) with over 20,000 overdoses.
The opioid epidemic has ravaged families and communities.
According to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, 97.5 million Americans used, or misused, prescription pain pills in 2015.
Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50, and deaths are rising faster than ever, primarily because of opioids.
Overdoses killed more people last year than guns or car accidents, and are doing so at a pace faster than the H.I.V. epidemic at its peak.
This rare access granted by District Attorney Summer Stephan, and San Diego Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Glenn Wagner, D.O., will change your understanding, educate, and move you to action.
In the words of Dr. Wagner: "It doesn’t take much for some combination, either in excess or combined with alcohol to guarantee you a premature visit to this place."
"The dead can teach the living, and we should all learn from it."