Fatal Infection Spreads Among San Diego Heroin Users

Fatal Infection Spreads Among San Diego Heroin Users

Flesh-eating bacteria is something that most people only hear about from movies or on rare news broadcasts after someone swims in a contaminated lake. However, at least nine cases of a flesh-eating bacteria called myonecrosis have been reported among San Diego heroin users lately, and only two of the victims survived.

According to the New York Times1, seven San Diego residents between the ages of 19 and 57 died from myonecrosis that resulted from injecting black tar heroin. Since the cases were reported in only two months in late 2019, Southern California health officials are now urging the public to spread awareness.

What Are the Risks of Myonecrosis?

Myonecrosis2 destroys muscle tissue, and the muscle dies from a toxin that is released by the bacteria. Risks are much higher among people who inject black tar heroin and other street drugs. When the disease starts, it spreads quickly. People who survive may need one or more limbs amputated. These are some of the symptoms:

  • Severe pain or swelling at an injection site.
  • Blisters that are filled with foul-smelling fluid.
  • Skin that turns black, dark gray, purple, or red.

Health officials have not found the source of the heroin that caused myonecrosis. Although heroin-related myonecrosis outbreaks have not been reported yet in other parts of the United States, there have been reports of another infection called wound botulism. At least one case was reported in San Diego recently. However, it is not a new problem. In 2005, several cases of it were tied to black tar heroin from Mexico3. The problem was documented as far back as the late 1990s. At that time, researchers studied the effects of wound botulism on six San Diego heroin victims4 who contracted it from injecting black tar heroin. Wound botulism5 is a rare illness that targets and damages the body’s nerves. Since some symptoms mimic those of a high, it may be hard to detect at first. These are a few symptoms to watch for:

  • Muscle weakness and slurred speech.
  • Difficulty when swallowing food or water.
  • Muscle weakness.

As wound botulism worsens, it can lead to paralysis and difficulty breathing.

Treatment Is a Rewarding Journey

During the last five years, heroin deaths in Orange County increased by 119%. There were nearly 70 accidental heroin overdoses in the county in 20186. The staff at Clear Life Recovery wants to reduce overdoses, fatal infections, and addiction’s destructive effects on Southern Californians’ lives.

Addiction treatment is the best solution. We understand that it is hard to reach out for help, and we work with you through every step. Our team members identify your needs as an individual and provide you with customized care. Clear Life Recovery helps you develop strategies to break the cycle of heroin addiction, work toward your goals, and regain your life. Contact us today to learn more.



1. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/05/health/flesh-eating-bacteria-san-diego.html
2. https://www.livescience.com/black-tar-heroin-flesh-eating-infection.html
3. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1553-2712.1997.tb03790.x
4. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/187346
5. https://www.cbs8.com/article/news/health/7-san-diegans-die-from-infection-linked-to-black-tar-heroin-over-2-month-period/509-4f2d74a1-4f94-4923-aae3-9b91626fee17
6. https://www.ocregister.com/2019/03/28/fentanyl-deaths-jump-in-orange-county-but-overall-opioid-deaths-dip-for-first-time-ever/

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