SAN DIEGO – As the county faces a nearly 870% increase in fentanyl deaths over the past five years, students and staff at Clairemont High School held a town hall to identify the ever-growing dangers of fentanyl and substance abuse, shedding light to the crisis not just nationally, but right in San Diego.

In a presentation titled, “From Sugar to Heroine”, freshmen students with the Academy of Health and Medical Sciences stressed the dangers of fentanyl, oxycodone, alcohol and marijuana abuse among others.

“The numbers are increasing every day and year. They’re just so shocking…especially with the ages going through this, people our age or even younger,” Maelea Silao and Anika Barley stressed when asked about their project pinpointing the deadly fentanyl accidents in our county.

Lined projects around the Clairemont High School cafeteria, showcased a harsh reality countywide, with the number of teen fentanyl deaths rising. In 2021, at least 12 youth under the age of 18 died from fentanyl poisoning, according to William Perno, an alcohol and drug prevention specialist with SAY San Diego.

“We are seeing these record numbers of fentanyl related deaths in San Diego County and there is no age group that is immune from this.” 

William Perno, Alcohol and Drug Prevention Specialist

While overdose medicine like Narcan and Naloxone can help, Perno leaves parents with this warning, identifying the dangers of recreational drugs laced with fentanyl.

“When there’s life there’s hope, and parents please make your kids aware of the risks, fentanyl is a drug that’s 30 to 50 times stronger than heroin, and parents don’t understand that it can be in any drug,” Perno said.

In the county alone, the number of unintentional fentanylcaused deaths jumped from 84 in 2017 to 814 in 2021. An alarming number, students, staff, and local nonprofits are working to bring awareness to.

“Most of the time people don’t know they’re taking fentanyl and it’s laced with other drugs and that’s what leads to overdose and death,” Barley said.