BY RUBEN VIVESSTAFF WRITER
Photography by IRFAN KHAN
Next to a row of tents covered with blue tarps on Skid Row, Jasmine Paredes watched a friend scribble a message on a lamppost with a pink Sharpie: L.A. — Fenty is #1 killa — may God help us all.
Paredes had recently lost two friends to fentanyl overdoses. She prevented a third death by performing CPR and administering Narcan, a nasal spray that can reverse the effects of opioids — one of nearly a dozen times she has brought someone back from the brink, she said.
She doesn’t use fentanyl herself, she said. But a few days ago, she took a hit from a glass pipe she thought was filled with meth that instead turned out to be the much more powerful drug.
“As soon as I exhaled, everything got really slow and dreamy,” said Paredes, 36, who lives in a tent in the flower district. “I was unconscious for two days. I later crawled across the street to my friend’s tent and slept for another two days.”
Here and in other homeless encampments around Los Angeles, life-and-death battles with fentanyl take place every day: hardened addicts revived after their hearts have stopped; people like Paredes who shared a pipe, not knowing what it contained; the loss of friend after friend.
Many have witnessed an overdose, suffered one themselves or helped save someone’s life. Narcan is nearly as common in tents as Tylenol is in medicine cabinets.
This is the reality behind numbers recently released by the L.A. County Public Health Department showing a surge in overdose deaths among homeless people, driven by the explosive rise of fentanyl.
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