Marin’s Opioid Epidemic


Alexander Rodriguez

For a long time now, the United States has grappled to manage and control the use of drugs in the country. From the War on Drugs that began in 1971 to the local opioid epidemic that leaves a vulnerable population in Marin at risk for developing opioid-dependent disorders. In a 2020 report by Marin County, they estimate 451 residents have died between 2006 and 2019 due to drug overdoses. In response to this epidemic, a commission to the County’s Board of Supervisors and the Marin County Youth Commission created a presentation in regards to the management, overdose prevention, and general community response to this matter. Jessica Mendieta, the chairperson for the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs (ATOD) subcommittee of the Marin County Youth Commission, gave a presentation to community members on the education, prevention, and the statistics of usage in Marin. Mendieta’s presentation highlights a key issue facing Marin, “In Marin County, opioid overdose is the leading cause of accidental deaths. Currently, an estimated 4,400 county residents suffer from opioid use disorder.” Click here to view ATOD’s presentation. 


Terra Linda is no stranger to the epidemic. A now-sober student, who wishes to stay anonymous, says that, “Because everyone is so rich [in Marin] and they just want to do s*** and get attention from their parents, I know I did that. A lot of people in Marin do these substances, because they want to feel good and numb their pain.” 


Back in December of 2020, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that overdose deaths have been on the rise since the beginning of the pandemic. They noted 10 states had a 98% increase in their synthetic opioid deaths. The production and availability of synthetic opioids have been surging since 2005. ATOD reports that, on occasion, other drugs like heroin and cocaine have been tainted with fentanyl causing a more harmful and, at times, lethal result in the user. Mendieta points out that fentanyl testing strips are available as a way to prevent these accidental overdoses. “These testing strips can be used for dipping into water that contains the drug that is being consumed and it will indicate if the drug has fentanyl in it.”


Narcan (drug name: Naloxone) is the antidote for opioid overdoses. Medical journal, Therapeutic Advances in Drug Safety reports that, “Efficacy of reversal following naloxone administration by laypersons is high, having been reported at 75–100%, and in general take-home naloxone programs are considered effective for reducing opioid-overdose mortality.” ATOD announced that Narcan is available over-the-counter without a prescription at most community pharmacies. One community-based resource to obtain Narcan is the Spahr Center, which has distributed about 380 kits beginning in November of 2020. Another community resource is RxSafe Marin which is a local organization that works with several external partners to combat the central issue of reducing harm from prescription drug abuse and saving lives to prevent accidental deaths. RxSafe Marin offers safe storage & disposal services to prevent the spread of blood-borne diseases and to keep communities clean and safe. The student continues, “I know that a couple years ago a friend of a friend passed away from an overdose from a drug that was laced. If you do decide to do drugs, get a testing kit because plugs are known to lace the drugs with fentanyl.”


President Ronald Reagan’s (and Richard Nixon’s) response to the opioid crisis began in 1971. It coined the name, “The War on Drugs.” Later, we would see disproportional effects that the war had on communities that had a lot of people of color. Inhumane and ineffective approaches were utilized to fix a complex problem that hit the most vulnerable population in the most devastating situations which left them distant and detached from society as an outlier. So while we can’t approach the usage of drugs the same way that we did with Reagan’s failed approach, we can still make it safer for users and prevent these deaths. 



Needle Safe Storage and Disposal Services by RxSafe Marin.


Narcan (Naloxone) overdose reversal by RxSafe Marin.