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Nueces Co. sees more opioid overdoses than other urban counties, local leaders say

"We had three times as many overdoses per capita than the next urban county," Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales told 3NEWS.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Nueces County leaders are addressing concerns in the Coastal Bend regarding opioid overdoses. They said it's more of an issue here than in other urban counties.

Medical experts said that the opioid crisis is across Texas and only getting worse every year. One of the most concerning drugs is illegally manufactured fentanyl, which they said many are now mistaking for the prescription version. 

It's an issue that's only getting worse as doctors are more restricted from giving prescriptions and demand for the drug stays high. 

Dr. C.M. Schade is with the Texas Medical Association and has been an expert in pain medicine for 50 years. He said illegally manufactured fentanyl is a matter of life and death.

"It's 50 times stronger than heroin, 100 times stronger than morphine, and to put it in perspective, the amount of Fentanyl powder that can fit on the tip of a pen—2 mg, the weight of a mosquito—is enough to kill you," Schade said.

He adds that the the illegal variant of fentanyl is 10 times cheaper than heroin to produce and easy enough to make in a home lab. The product looks like the legal prescription version, but is filled with a lethal dose. Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales said it is a problem that needs to be addressed locally. 

"We're part of a few counties that said enough is enough. We had three times as many overdoses per capita than the next urban county," Canales said. "That's awful. So, we're dying more here than other places and we need to understand why."

Canales said Texas has regional hubs with multiple counties in it to address the opioid crisis. By collecting data showing impact in our county, our region can receive about $30 million to fight back.

"Data drives decisions and policy," Canales said, "but we can capture this data. It will help us get the dollars we need to continue the programs that are impactful and it will drive the decision to hopefully do stronger or more robust public messaging."

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