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Sonoma County’s Growing Fentanyl Problem

April 6, 2021
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Inside Sonoma County's Fentanyl Problem

In 2019, there was a reported 70,630 overdose deaths, with a significant number of those deaths being attributed to fentanyl. As this new drug is on the rise, it calls attention to several places worldwide struggling to get out of its grasp.

The Petaluma area is one such place that is seeing an increase in overdoses as a result of fentanyl. We’re here to share some surprising statistics with you and help you figure out what to do to fight back.

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic drug, and opioid analog. It is about 50 times stronger than heroin. And, fentanyl analogs like carfentanil can be up to 5000 times stronger than heroin.

Fentanyl was meant to be used for medical reasons due to its incredible pain-numbing abilities. It’s used in circumstances such as managing pain in cancer patients, or people with debilitating chronic pain.

The problem is that it has found its way into street drugs sold as heroin, making drug overdose numbers soar across the county.

The street names for fentanyl include:

  • Serial killer
  • Apache
  • Dance fever
  • Murder 8
  • TNT

Most people find themselves using heroin that’s laced with fentanyl — most of the time unknowingly. This can lead to an overdose because the power of fentanyl is often misunderstood.

Fentanyl Finding its Way into Sonoma County

A number of recent local stories have named fentanyl responsible an increase of overdoses in Petaluma and Sonoma County.

In 2020, about two people a week passed away due to opioid use in Sonoma County alone. Local law enforcement officials said that out of 102 opioid overdoses in 2020, 94 involved some form of fentanyl.

Sonoma County’s overdose rate is 70% above the statewide average. Head of the county’s narcotics unit Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Brian Boettger spoke to The Press Democrat on this growing problem.

“It’s just getting worse and worse and worse,” Sgt. Boettger said. “Eighteen months ago we had a seizure of one ounce of fentanyl — the size of a golf ball. In just the last two and a half weeks, we’ve seized over four pounds.”

Petaluma 360 wrote another article on the drug in April of 2018. Their conversation with Petaluma Police Lt. Tim Lyons foreshadowed the growing problem, stating how the problem is something they haven’t seen before.

It’s so much of a problem that Petaluma officers have equipped themselves with naloxone injections, a life-saving opioid antagonist that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.

Officers in surrounding communities have put themselves at risk to try to put an end to this epidemic. It can’t be understated how dangerous this drug is. Just having it exposed to your skin can result in an overdose.

In August of last year, a Santa Rosa Police officer had to self-administer an injection of Narcan after being exposed to the drug.

Another story by the Petaluma Patch tells of a 16-year-old-boy who overdosed on a fake Xanax pill laced with fentanyl.

On November 30, 2020, three people in Petaluma were hospitalized due to alleged fentanyl overdoses.

These are just a few of the frightening stories that have been released over the years.

If you have a child, a loved one, or even a distant friend you may be worried about, read further to learn the signs of fentanyl use.

Signs That Someone is Using Fentanyl

Someone who abuses fentanyl might drift in and out of consciousness and experience slowed breathing because the drug suppresses the respiratory system. Their heart rate might also slow to a dangerous place, which could mean that the brain isn’t getting as much blood as it should be.

You might also notice that the person using has dilated pupils and has an inability to concentrate. When you begin to notice signs that you or someone you love might have an issue with fentanyl, what can you do about it?

The people of Sonoma County, CA, have been doing their best to fight back, even going as far as to ask for new laws to be made.

Alexandra’s Law

Amy Neville is a mother who had to lay her son to rest after she discovered him dead from an overdose. In 2019 she and many other people stood in front of government officials and urged them to implement a law that would hold drug dealers accountable for their actions.

Neville spoke about how her son would no longer get to do the things he loved, but the drug dealer that sold him that fatal dose of fentanyl was free to go about his life.

The law that she and others proposed — Alexandra’s Law — was those drug dealers who have been convicted of dealing drugs be charged with manslaughter or murder if the person they sold drugs to died from an overdose. Although they persisted in their efforts, the law didn’t pass government officials.

What Can Be Done?

More hospital staff in Petaluma are spending their nights treating patients who have overdosed due to their drug use. The question that they ask themselves is, what can be done to solve the problem?

From 2015-2016 the rate of death resulting from synthetic opioids rose from 3.1 to 6.2. Unless something’s done about it, the number will only continue to increase.

The only thing that can be done when someone is abusing drugs is to find help. The first step is entering into detox to rid your body completely of the drug.

Detox comes before treatment because you’re not able to work through your issues if your mind is still in a cloudy haze.

Once you’ve made it past detox, the real work begins, and you can start diving into learning your triggers and ways to cope with life without turning to addiction.

Fentanyl: The Synthetic Drug Taking Over the Streets

Fentanyl has become increasingly popular over time, not only in Petaluma but worldwide. If something is not done immediately to stop the epidemic, more lives will become lost to overdoses.

If you’re located in Sonoma County and are looking for a treatment center for yourself or someone else you know is struggling, contact Wavelengths Recovery. We have rehabilitation centers in both Petaluma and Huntington Beach.

We understand that the road to recovery isn’t easy, but we want to be there with you to equip you with the tools you need to turn your life around. Please don’t wait for another second to check out some of our patient success stories, and start writing your own story today.




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