County officials gather to address growing fentanyl problem

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SAN DIEGO -- District Attorney Summer Stephan along with other San Diego County officials spoke to students at San Diego State University Thursday as the number of fentanyl deaths in the county continues to rise.

So far this year, 50 people have died from fentanyl overdoses in Imperial and San Diego counties.

The DA’s office expects that number to reach 130 by the end of 2019.

The synthetic drug is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine and is considered one of the most powerful killer drugs in the United States.

“You can say there’s fentanyl in here and you’re going to die, but addicts don’t think that way," said Eric Rias, who has been clean nearly six years. “There’s no logic there, we’re just surviving -- dying may be a cost of that, but in that state, there’s no rationale there."

Rias said he abused multiple drugs in the past and had a strong addiction to heroin.

“You get arrested all the time because you’re doing illegal activities, and people around you are getting arrested,” Rias said. “You’re overdosing. I overdosed many times and I was in psych wards."

When it comes to fentanyl, Rias said he thinks of his friends. Seventeen of them, to be exact -- all of whom died from overdoses since 2009. According to Rias, those drugs were likely laced with the synthetic drug, but he’ll never know for sure.

Rias said he feels lucky he’s still here to tell his story. “I’m not a religious person, but I’m here because of the grace of God," he said.

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