Opioid Overdoses Continue; Learn How to Get Help

Published on
05/07/2024
Opioids

 

Community members are asked to stay vigilant and take steps to help curb fatal and nonfatal drug overdoses. A significant area of concern here in Fairfax County and around the country is a growing number of opioid overdoses involving youth. 

 

Fentanyl Remains Top Cause of Overdoses

Fentanyl is the primary opioid responsible for fatal and nonfatal overdoses in the Fairfax Health District. Since 2016, the percentage of opioid overdose fatalities involving fentanyl has increased each year to 95% in 2023. More information on local overdose trends is available in the Fairfax Opioid Overdose Dashboard

Image of a pencil tip with 2mg of fentanyl at the end

Fentanyl is an opioid that is a common substitute or cutting agent in illicit narcotics such as cocaine, heroin, MDMA (also known as ecstasy or molly), as well as counterfeit pills.  According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), 2mg of fentanyl – the amount on the tip of the pencil in the photo at left- is a potentially deadly dose. Nationally, the DEA reports that 7 out of 10 pills seized by DEA contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl. In 2023, the U.S. DEA has seized over 74.5 million fentanyl pills, which exceeds the 2022 total of 58 million pills, plus over 11,400 pounds of fentanyl powder. Locally, the Fairfax County Police Department seized nearly 44,000 fentanyl pills in 2023 (compared to about 15,500 in 2022), plus over 8,800 grams of fentanyl powder (compared to 3,700 grams in 2022). FCPD reports that illicit pills containing fentanyl and other substances are selling locally for less than $10/pill, compared to $30/pill in recent years. 

Counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl can look the same as authentic pills, making it almost impossible to know whether a pill has a deadly dose of fentanyl or not.

Opioid Tablets

Opioid Pills

Rainbow fentanyl – or fentanyl pills and powder that come in a variety of bright colors, shapes, and sizes – is also an emerging national concern, according to the U.S. DEA.

rainbow fentanyl

 

Our Police Department has found that numerous youth overdoses have involved burnt tin foil which is often used to facilitate the inhalation of the pills (other Northern Virginia jurisdictions are also observing this).

tinfoil fentanyl

 

Signs of Opioid Overdose

  • Face is pale or clammy
  • Breathing is infrequent or has stopped
  • Deep snoring or gurgling (death rattle)
  • Unresponsive to any stimuli
  • Slow or no heart rate and/or pulse
  • Bluish purple, or ashen skin color
  • Fingernails turn blue or blue-black

 

Fairfax County's Opioid Response

Fairfax County works to address the opioid epidemic through the County’s Opioid and Substance Use Task Force, which was created in 2017. The Fairfax County FY 23- FY 25 Opioid Response Plan includes about 40 opioid-related programs/activities focused on reducing opioid-related overdoses and deaths in the Fairfax community. More information on the County’s opioid response is available online here

Over the last couple years, as the number of youth overdoses in Fairfax have increased in line with regional and national trends, there has been a significant focus in Fairfax County on enhancing youth prevention, treatment, harm reduction and recovery programs/activities.

These efforts include: expanding naloxone availability for Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) staff; providing community presentations and messages; updating an opioid communications toolkit with messages in English and Spanish tailored to youth; partnering with Northern Virginia Family Services to assist families in connecting and engaging in substance use treatment; and enhancing the local youth substance use treatment continuum.  In particular, efforts are underway to expand youth treatment capacity for youth medication for opioid use disorder and bring youth detoxification (withdrawal management)/residential treatment services to Northern Virginia, among other initiatives. 


 

 What Can I Do?

This is a communitywide problem and requires a comprehensive approach to prevent future overdoses and connect individuals experiencing opioid and substance misuse to treatment and support services. Take action today.

 

County Resources

If you or someone you know is experiencing substance use issues, there are numerous county resources available:

  • If the situation is immediately life-threatening, call 911. Fairfax County Fire and Rescue personnel carry medication that can prevent deaths from opioid overdose.
  • Call the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board (CSB) Entry & Referral line at 703-383-8500, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., to access behavioral health services, including substance use treatment services for youth and adults. 
  • If it's after business hours, call CSB Emergency Services at 703-573-5679 or the Fairfax Detoxification Center at 703-502-7000; both are available 24/7. 
  • CSB Peer Outreach Response Team (PORT) provides outreach, engagement and resource navigation to individuals who have serious opioid and other substance use challenges. If you or someone you know could benefit from PORT services, call  703-559-3199.
  • Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) Substance Abuse Prevention Specialists (SAPS) are based in each high school and provide youth substance use prevention, education and intervention to all pyramid schools using a tiered approach.  How to Access:
    • Parents/Guardians can call their child’s school front office staff or ask their counselor to connect to their school’s assigned SAPS.  
    • Contact the FCPS Office of Student Safety and Wellness: 

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