SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — Every five minutes another American dies from overdosing on drugs.

A staggering reality of the state of drugs and addiction was outlined by doctors, police chiefs, and rehabilitation experts this week during a briefing on the White House’s inaugural National Drug Control Strategy.

The new strategy was outlined in President Joe Biden’s Unity Agenda, which focuses on two main drivers of the crisis: untreated addiction and drug trafficking.

It directs federal agencies to expand access to harm reduction programs, treatment, and recovery services, while also reducing the supply of drugs funneled into communities across America.

According to the CDC, more than 104,000 Americans died due to a drug overdose in the 12-month period ending in September 2021. On average, 265 people died every day.

“Most of these deaths involve synthetic opioids like fentanyl,” Dr. Raul Gupta, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said.

“Overdose deaths have taken a heartbreaking toll on communities,” Gupta said. “One American life is lost every five minutes. around-the-clock.”

Despite a flurry of public safety warnings issued about fentanyl this year, some current and former drug addicts told KRON4 that they were unaware of how deadly the drug can be.

“I don’t know much about it,” one former addict told KRON4. The former addict’s close friend died from a suspected fentanyl overdose a few weeks ago.

Jaime Puerta holds a portrait of his son Daniel Puerta-Johnson, who died in 2020 at the age of 16 from a pill containing fentanyl.  (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON / AFP via Getty Images)

Vast quantities of fentanyl is manufactured in China, smuggled through Mexico, and ends up in the hands of drug users in communities where overdose-reversing tools like Naloxone, also known as NARCAN, are not readily available, Gupta said.

A lethal dose of Fentanyl is equivalent to just two grains of salt, law enforcement officials said.

“This is a drug environment unlike any we have seen,” Gupta said.

“This overdose crisis is unraveling the social fabric of our nation. The most important action we can take right now to save lives is by putting Naloxone in the hands of people without fear of judgement,” Gupta said.

Opening paths to treatment is critical, Gupta said.

“Less than one out of 10 addicts are able to get treatment. Everyone who wants treatment should be able to get it. We must do more. People who need care are falling through the cracks,” he said.

“I’ve learned that an overdose is a cry for help, and for far too many people that cry goes unanswered,” Gupta said.

The White House’s plan takes a compassion-based approach toward people struggling with substance abuse disorders, and a hardline with drug smugglers and dealers.

A US Customs and Border Protection canine team checks automobiles for contraband in the line to enter the United States at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in San Ysidro, California. (Photo by SANDY HUFFAKER / AFP via Getty Images)

Gupta asserted that the U.S. will never defeat the opioid epidemic, “if it is easier to get illicit drugs into America than it is to get treatment.”

“The overdose epidemic does not care about politics. Red states and blue states. This is an American issue. Stigma continues to harm people with addiction. Do we want the next generation to look back and see how stigma stopped us from taking steps to save lives?” Gupta asked.

Tucson Police Department Assistant Chief Kevin Hall said, “Fentanyl took over.”

“We are 60 miles from the Mexican border. Huge amounts of drugs come into our country as pills. Tucson is a transportation hub. It is not unusual to see thousands and thousands of Fentanyl pills. We have to hold accountable the cartels,” Hall said.

Fentanyl is also being manufactured here in California.

Last weekend, Alameda County Sheriff narcotics task force detectives found a fentanyl manufacturing lab in the Oakland and Hayward area and seized more than 90 pounds of opioids. Detectives believe that the fentanyl was intended to be sold on San Francisco Bay Area streets.

The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office said its massive bust was just a “glimpse of the fentanyl epidemic.”

More than 90 pounds of fentanyl was seized in the Oakland and Hayward area at a manufacturing lab. (Alameda County Sheriff’s Office photo)

Hall said fatal overdoses in his region of Arizona have increased “exponentially” in a “horrific way.”

To track long-term outcomes, the Tucson Police Department compared what happens after an addict is locked up in jail, versus what happens after a person receives substance abuse treatment.

Addicts who were sent to rehabs instead of jail cells had increased likelihoods of becoming “productive community members,” such as going back to school, getting a job, and finding stable housing, Hall said.

“Substance abuse is a neuro-biological disease. A compassionate harm-reduction approach is a more thoughtful and meaningful strategy. We are doing something now that hasn’t happened in our past. We are not arresting people who we would have arrested historically. We are pushing them to treatment,” Hall said.

Read more about President Biden’s Opioid Overdose action plan here.