Health & Medicine

Fentanyl overdose deaths skyrocket in SLO County, public health officials warn

Ten people have died from fentanyl overdoses in San Luis Obispo County since May.

That’s an “alarming increase” in deaths from the synthetic opioid that can be in multiple street drugs including heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine — often, without the users knowledge, according to the county Public Health Department.

Public health officials are warning that even a small amount of the drug can cause a person to stop breathing, according to a news release issued Tuesday morning. Two or fewer deaths a year have been traced back to fentanyl overdose since 2015.

Toxicology reports for recent deaths in San Luis Obispo County show that the drug has been mixed with opioids and stimulants such as methamphetamine, resulting in a deadly concoction. Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin, the release says.

“We want everyone to know: Illicit fentanyl is here in San Luis Obispo County and it brings a high risk of overdose,” Dr. Penny Borenstein, county health officer, said in the release. “Any drug you buy on the street may be contaminated with lethal levels of fentanyl.”

It is sold as a powder or a pill that looks like prescription opioids.

Fentanyl is used by doctors for pain relief for patients with cancer or those recovering from surgery. It is also manufactured illegally.

The safest way to protect yourself is to not use illicit drugs, but there are steps you can take to lessen the risk, Borenstein said.

How to avoid a fentanyl overdose

Get naloxone. The medicine can reverse an opioid overdose, is non-addictive and has virtually no side effects.

Test for fentanyl. Testing strips are not completely accurate, but offer some information. They are available through the nonprofit SLO Bangers Syringe Exchange and Overdose Prevention Program.

Know what an overdose looks like and call 911. Signs of overdose include small, constricted “pinpoint” pupils; falling asleep or losing consciousness; slow, shallow breathing; choking or gurgling sounds; a limp body and pale, blue or cold skin. It is not a crime to be under the influence if seeking medical assistance for an overdose victim.

Connect with treatment. The San Luis Obispo County Drug and Alcohol Services team offers services to support recovery and can also help connect residents with other treatment programs. To learn more, call 800-838-1381 or visit Drug & Alcohol Services online.

Where can you get naloxone with no prescription in SLO County?

  • Target Pharmacy (CVS within store), San Luis Obispo, 11990 Los Osos Valley Road. 805-858-9903.
  • Cayucos Pharmacy, 72 South Ocean Avenue, 805-995-3538.
  • CVS Pharmacy, 187 Niblick Road, Paso Robles. 805-238-2947.
  • CVS Pharmacy, 827 Oak Park Blvd., Pismo Beach. 805-473-0489.
  • CVS Pharmacy, 717 Marsh St., San Luis Obispo. 805-547-9986.
  • Cal Poly Health Services, 1 Grand Ave., San Luis Obispo. 805-756-1211.
  • Rite Aid, 1207 East Grand Ave., Arroyo Grande. 805-489-1830.

  • Rite Aid, 1151 Creston Road, Paso Robles. 805-239-3028
  • Rite Aid, 7025 El Camino Real, Atascadero. 805-466-8722
  • Rite Aid 2424 Spring Street, Paso Robles. 805-239-1878
  • Rite Aid, 1251 Johnson Ave., San Luis Obispo. 805-545-0655.
  • Rite Aid, 765 Foothill Blvd., San Luis Obispo. 805-543-5697.
  • Vons Pharmacy, 1758 Grand Ave., Grover Beach. 805-481-2492.
  • Vons Pharmacy, 520 W. Tefft St., Nipomo. 805-931-1860.
  • Vons Pharmacy, 3900 Broad St., San Luis Obispo. 805-541-1132

SLO Bangers offers both the nasal spray and injection forms of naloxone without a prescription, at no cost and in a confidential setting. Call 805-458-0123 to learn more, or stop by Wednesdays from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at 2191 Johnson Ave. in San Luis Obispo. Parking is available off of Bishop Street.

Toxicology results found a recent spike in fentanyl overdose deaths in San Luis Obispo County since May. San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department
Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune

Monica Vaughan reports on health, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo County, oil and wildlife at The Tribune. She previously covered crime and justice in the Sacramento Valley, is a graduate of the University of Oregon journalism school and is a sixth-generation Californian. Have an idea for a story? Email: