Prescription drug deaths declined in 2018, report shows

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SAN DIEGO — Prescription drug deaths in San Diego County declined last year while deaths due to opiates like heroin and fentanyl rose, according to data released Thursday by San Diego County’s Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force.

The county’s 2019 Prescription Drug Abuse Report Card found that 246 residents died due to prescription drug abuse last year, a decline of 10% over the county’s 2017 figures. The report found that 7.4 people per 100,000 residents died due to prescription drug overdoses, the lowest rate of the last five years.

Fentanyl deaths per 100,000 people increased for the fifth consecutive year to 2.8 deaths, compared to 0.5 deaths per 100,000 people in 2014. Heroin deaths also totaled 105, their highest level in five years. The combination of prescription drug deaths and heroin deaths totaled 351, eight fewer than the number of deaths in 2017.

“Prescription drugs continue to take a toll in our communities,” San Diego County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar. “It’s especially troublesome to see heroin and fentanyl deaths go up as a result of the growing opioid epidemic not just in San Diego but across the country.”

Residents can contact the county’s Access and Crisis Line at 888-724-7240 to obtain information about drug use prevention and drug abuse treatment. Residents can also turn in their unused prescription drugs Saturday during the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s semi-annual Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

A list of prescription drug take back and disposal sites can be found online. Drug take back events happen each April and October.

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