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International Overdose Awareness Day observed as fentanyl problem persists

By Jeremy Baker

More than half of all opioids sold on the street have enough fentanyl to kill, the DEA said.

To watch the full KENS-TV interview, click here.

SAN ANTONIO — South Texas is an opioid epidemic hot bed, with the location so close to Mexico where much of the illegal and deadly drugs come from. We look into the epidemic, with today being marked as a day to spread awareness about this exponentially growing problem.

More than one out of every two opioids sold illegally has enough fentanyl to kill you. That's why today's International Overdose Awareness Day is so important. Thomas Mangiamele the acting special agent in charge of the San Antonio DEA District Office told us, "What our DEA laboratory has told us is that approximately 60% or six of every ten pills that we seize have a lethal dose of fentanyl in them." 

As of 2021 the CDC says there were over 107,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States. That is an increase of 15 percent since the year 2020. Two out of three of those deaths involved synthetic opioids. The majority of which are fentanyl.

Dr. Rachel Broussard is a psychiatric and addiction nurse practitioner at Be Well Texas, a program of UT Health San Antonio offering treatment and recovery support for substance use and mental health, regardless of ability to pay.

"Local clinics are overwhelmed because it's in so many substances, all opioids, but especially fentanyl," she said. 

In 2020 about 284 million people had used a drug in the past 12 months. That is one in every 18 people aged 15 to 64. That number is up 26 percent since 2010. Opioids account for roughly 60%of drug overdose deaths. With the number of people using opioids has doubled from about 31 million people in 2010 to more than 61 million in 2020. And the DEA has seized a tremendous amount of the deadly drug. 

"The DEA laboratory where we send all our drugs has told us that is enough fentanyl to kill every person in the United States. More than every person, approximately 380 million people," Mangiamele added. 

"It's a ripple effect across not only the immediate parents, siblings, family members, school classmates, but the local medical community that's having to respond to these, especially the overdoses and deaths of so many people," Broussard said.  

Tonight at 6:30 Be Well Texas and UT Health San Antonio will hold a vigil at 620 E. Dewey Place, the Biomedical Development corporate offices, for the victims of those who have overdosed on opioids. They can ask questions, and even get free naloxone.