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Fentanyl Scourge Takes Toll Among Homeless In Los Angeles

Fentanyl is a highly addictive and potentially lethal drug that has become a scourge, taking a toll on the growing number of people living on the streets of Los Angeles. Nearly 2,000 homeless people died in L.A. from April 2020 to March 2021, a 56 percent increase from the previous year. Overdoses were the leading cause of death, killing more than 700, reports the Associated Press. When fentanyl was first developed, it was made to treat intense pain from ailments like cancer. The use of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that is cheap to produce and often laced in other drugs, has exploded. Because it is 50 times more powerful than heroin, even a small dose can be fatal. It has quickly become the deadliest drug in the nation, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Two-thirds of the 107,000 overdose deaths in 2021 were attributed to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.


A 2019 report by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority found about a quarter of all homeless adults in Los Angeles County had mental illnesses and 14 percent had a substance abuse disorder. The Los Angeles Times analyzed the data and found that 51 percent had mental illnesses and 46 percent had substance use disorders. Billions of dollars are being spent to alleviate homelessness in California but treatment is not always funded. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a controversial bill that force people suffering from severe mental illness into treatment, but they need to be diagnosed with a certain disorder, and addiction alone doesn't qualify. Help is available but it gets outpaced by the magnitude of misery on the streets. Rita Richardson, a field supervisor with L.A. Door, an addiction-prevention program that works with people convicted of misdemeanors, hands out socks, water. condoms, snacks, clean needles and flyers at the same hotspots Monday through Friday. She hopes the consistency of her visits will encourage people to get help. “Then hopefully the light bulb comes on. It might not happen this year. It might not happen next year. It might take several years,” said Richardson, a former homeless addict. ”My goal is to take them from the dark to the light.” Parts of Los Angeles have become scenes of desperation with men and women sprawled on sidewalks, curled up on benches and collapsed in alleys. Some huddle up smoking the drug, and others inject it.

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