SAN ANTONIO – The fight against fentanyl continues across the state of Texas.
“It’s a drug that’s commonly used to relieve pain in cancer patients,” said Evita Morin.
Morin is the CEO of Rise Recovery, a San Antonio nonprofit organization that provides perpetual free services to youth and their families.
“It’s an opioid, very similar to heroin, very similar to morphine,” Morin said. “Except it’s significantly stronger – 50 to 100 times stronger than these. So you have to be so careful.”
On Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order targeting some of the leading manufacturers of fentanyl. The executive order designates Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations and directs the Texas Department of Public Safety to identify and take action against criminal organizations that support the cartels.
“More Americans died from fentanyl poisoning in the past year than in any terrorist attack worldwide in the last 100 years,” Abbott said during Wednesday’s Midland news conference.
Abbott identified the Sinaloa Cartel and the New Generation Jalisco Cartel as producers and distributors of fentanyl.
“Fentanyl is a silent killer, and Texans are being harassed by Mexican cartels that produce and import it,” Abbott said. “So the cartels are terrorists and it’s about time we start treating them like that.”
According to UT Health San Antonio, the most recent data is from 2020, when at least 125 opioid overdose deaths were reported in Bexar County.
Morin said education and prevention are key to saving lives against fentanyl.
“What is needed now is a full-scale awareness campaign, particularly among young people or anyone who uses drugs recreationally,” Morin said. “(We need to make them aware) that there is a dangerous chemical on the street that could be in any of these drugs, even if they look like drugs.”
The last bust was reported in Hays County. In early September, authorities arrested two people and removed nearly 400 counterfeit Percocet pills containing fentanyl from the streets. Authorities said the counterfeit pills are usually light blue and imprinted with M-30.
“These cartels are putting these drugs in every kind of other drug, even if it looks like you’re going to be prescribed it, but it’s basically manufactured,” Morin said. “It’s not the real drug and it often has fentanyl attached to it.”
But at what age should parents start talking to their kids about the dangers of drugs, especially fentanyl?
“I’ll tell you the median age of first use in Bexar County is about 11 or 12,” Morin said. “From 2018 to 2020, there was a 40% increase in 911 overdose calls in Bexar County. So that should give you a real idea of how prominent, how much more aggressive this drug is on our streets.”
The next step, Morin said, is for people to carry Narcan — the opioid-reversal drug commonly carried by first responders.
“It will completely reverse the overdose effects of an opiate, where opioids are fentanyl, heroin and any of those types of drugs. And it will save lives,” Morin said. “Now our parents, partners and loved ones can wear (Narcan), and they should, because you never know when you’re just enjoying a social life and seeing the world and having fun, all of a sudden they might turn their heads in an instant.”
UT Health San Antonio offers free narcan to organizations and individuals through its website, MoreNarcanPlease.com.
“This project is supported by the Texas Targeted Opioid Response, a public health initiative operated by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission with federal funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration,” said Dr. Lisa Cleveland. Cleveland, PhD, APRN, is a pediatric nurse practitioner and professor at the UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing.
Organizations can click here to request Narcan.
“Approximately 600,000 doses have been distributed by our program across Texas since February 2018,” Cleveland said. “The most common recipients of Narcan are community organizations and law enforcement agencies.”
Individuals can click here to fill out an inquiry form. Two doses of Narcan nasal spray are delivered to the person’s home.
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