Deaths surge from Fentanyl-laced drugs in San Diego

Jeanne McAlister, founder and CEO of the McAlister Institute, came to the studio on Sunday to discuss San Diego’s growing addiction to opioids and the importance of prevention and recovery.

Reported deaths from fentanyl in California nearly tripled between 2016 and 2017, according to the California Department of Public Health. San Diego County’s fentanyl overdose mortality rate in 2017 was two times higher than the California rate. Nearly 275 county deaths were attributed to opioid overdoses, with more than half involving fentanyl.

Experts suspect dealers are tainting drugs with fentanyl because it produces a better high, or because it’s more cost-effective. The white powder substance is 10 to 100 times more potent than heroin and can cause respiratory arrest. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. In its illegal form, fentanyl is so potent a size equal to two grains of salt can be deadly.

According to authorities, more than 75% of fentanyl seizures across the southwest border is coming through ports of entry in the Southern District of California from Mexico. Growing concerns have prompted the California Public Health Department to provide test strips at needle exchange locations across the state, to allow people to check their drugs for fentanyl. The test works by placing a strip in a small amount of water with diluted drug residue for 15 seconds. Results are available in 5 minutes. In addition to testing their drugs, users should also carry the opioid overdose reversal medication, naloxone.

Jeanne McAlister is a pioneer in the field of recovery. As a recovering alcoholic herself, celebrating 61 years of sobriety and 85 years of life, Jeanne has used her experience to build an agency that is founded upon empathy and hope and dedicated to serving those who suffer. The McAlister Institute is one of San Diego County’s largest alcohol and other drug treatment providers. Its programs are built on more than 40 years of experience helping San Diegans become drug-free, independent and healthy, and they serve more than 2,500 individuals each month.

McAlister Institute has earned recognition as one of San Diego County’s leading resources for the compassionate care and treatment of individuals and families suffering from addiction, co-occurring mental illness, and homelessness. Founded in 1977, we dedicate ourselves to having a positive impact on all those who come to us, helping restore them to more productive and meaningful lives. For additional information on McAlister Institute’s 28 programs, please visit

Categories: Good Morning San Diego, Local San Diego News