SAN ANTONIO – The fight against fentanyl continues across the state of Texas.
“It’s a drug often used to reduce pain for cancer patients,” Evita Morin said.
Morin is the CEO for Rise Recovery, a nonprofit in San Antonio that provides open-ended services at no charge for youth and their families.
“It is an opioid, a lot like heroin, a lot like morphine,” Morin said. “Except it’s significantly stronger -- 50 to 100 times stronger than those. So, you’ve got to be so careful.”
On Wednesday, Governor 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 instructs 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 all terrorist attacks across the globe in the past 100 years,” Abbott said during Wednesday’s press conference in Midland.
Abbott identified the Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco New Generation Cartel as producing and distributing fentanyl.
“Fentanyl is a clandestine killer, and Texans are victimized by Mexican cartels that produce and import it,” Abbott said. “So, the cartels are terrorists, and it’s time that we started treating them that way.”
According to UT Health San Antonio, the most recent data dates back to 2020 when at least 125 opioid-involved overdose deaths were reported in Bexar County.
Morin said education and prevention is key in saving lives against fentanyl.
“What’s needed right now is a significant awareness campaign, especially among young people or anyone that is recreationally using drugs,” Morin said. “(We need to make them aware) that there is a dangerous chemical on the street that could be in any one of those drugs, even if they look like medication.”
The latest bust was reported in Hays County. In early September, authorities arrested two people and removed nearly 400 counterfeit Percocet pills laced with fentanyl from the streets. Authorities said the counterfeit pills are typically light blue with M-30 stamped on them.
“These cartels are putting these drugs in every type of other drug, even it looks like it may look like something that you would be prescribed, but it’s basically manufactured,” Morin said. “It is 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 will tell you that the average age of first use in Bexar County is about 11 or 12 years old,” Morin said. “From 2018 to 2020, there was a 40% increase in overdose emergency calls in Bexar County. So, that should give you a real idea of just 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 medication commonly carried by first responders.
“It will completely reverse the overdose effects of an opiate, opioid being fentanyl, heroin, any of those kinds of drugs. And it will save lives,” Morin said. “Now our parents, partners and loved ones can carry (Narcan), and they should, because you never know when you are just enjoying a social life and experiencing the world and having fun, all of a sudden they could turn around in an instant.”
UT Health San Antonio offers free Narcan for organizations and individuals through its website MoreNarcanPlease.com.
“This project is supported by Texas Targeted Opioid Response, a public health initiative operated by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission through federal funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration,” Dr. Lisa Cleveland said. 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 throughout Texas since February 2018,” Cleveland said. “The most common recipients of Narcan are community organizations and law enforcement.”
Individuals can click here to fill out a request form. Two doses of Narcan Nasal Spray will be delivered to the person’s home.