San Diego Conference Addresses Epidemic Of Opioid-Related Deaths

Wednesday, November 8, 2017
By Kenny Goldberg
Credit: Associated Press
Above: OxyContin pills arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt., Feb. 19, 2013.

California has the nation’s seventh-lowest rate of drug overdoses. Even so, because of the state's large population, more people die of a drug overdose each year in California than in any other state.

Opioid-related overdose deaths and how to reduce them are the topics of discussion at the two-day 2017 Statewide Opioid Policy Summit taking place in San Diego this week.

Dr. Karen Smith, director of the California Department of Public Health, is one of the featured speakers.

She said the state has recently seen a decline in overall drug-related emergency-room admissions and deaths. But there has been a steep increase in heroin and fentanyl-related deaths.

“As we restrict the availability, or educate physicians around safe use of opioids, people who are already addicted have access to relatively available, very inexpensive, very dangerous drugs like heroin and fentanyl," Smith said.

County health officials say at least 37 San Diegans have died from a fentanyl-related overdose so far this year. That is an all-time record.