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"The biggest problem we are seeing right now": healthcare workers speak out about fentanyl

Posted at 3:03 PM, Aug 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-08 18:03:23-04

Healthcare workers are sounding the alarm about the fentanyl crisis.

Fentanyl has driven the opioid crisis to a level healthcare workers have not yet seen, Cottage Health says.

The hospital, which has multiple locations in Santa Barbara County, says that there were more than 133 overdose deaths within the county between Jan. 2021 and Jan. 2022.

"Fentanyl on its own and paired with other illicit drugs is the biggest problem we are seeing right now," Layla Farinpour, Director of Clinical Care for Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine at Cottage Health, said in a statement. "We have not seen this level of crisis before."

What is it?

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, is not just powerful and addictive. It is often deadly.

The hospital says a lethal dose of fentanyl is about the size of three grains of sugar.

Farinpour says that fentanyl is sometimes prescribed for pain relief and can be found in tablet form, nasal spray or patches.

In other cases, people who use recreational drugs like cocaine and methamphetamines could have run into fentanyl, which is often mixed with other drugs.

Warning signs

Farinpour says that warning signs of an opioid problem include taking the prescription drugs for longer than recommended, needing increasing doses for the same pain relief and getting the medications from other people or illegally.

Addiction to opioids can affect someone's behavior. They might self-isolate from family and friends or have increased conflicts in relationships, problems at work or school or money issues.

Farinpour said, "Opioid use disorder is a medical illness. It's not a character defect. It can happen to anyone. Treatments are available and recovery is possible."

Getting help

Santa Barbara County Behavioral Wellness and Cottage Health both offer recovery programs for those dealing with addiction.

NARCAN or naxalone, a drug that can save the life of someone who is overdosing, is available for free at multiple locations in Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County.

"The most important thing is to take that first step to say something and reach out for help if someone you care about has an opioid use problem," Farinpour said. "Early intervention and treatment can make a big impact."