San Francisco issues alert on fentanyl after overdoses


(NewsNation) — After several fentanyl overdoses in San Fransisco by people who had intended to use only cocaine, the city’s health department alerted people of the opioid’s potency.

In the past two weeks alone, the San Francisco Department of Public Health said, there were three fatal incidents where people were unintentionally exposed to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be 1.5 to 50 times more potent than heroin. Known for its heroin-like effect, fentanyl is usually mixed with heroin or cocaine to increase its euphoric effects, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

“The similar appearance of fentanyl and stimulants may lead to unintentional use of fentanyl
among people who use stimulants and have little or no tolerance to opioids,” the health alert issued Thursday said. “Anyone who accesses drugs outside of the regulated medical supply chain may be at risk of fentanyl overdose and may also be effective responders to a witnessed overdose.”

In San Fransisco, fentanyl overdoses have increased “precipitously,” the health department said, with an estimated 474 deaths in 2021. Other places are seeing similar surges: drug overdose deaths in South Carolina increased by more than 50% after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, state officials said.

Substance abuse issues, particularly with opioids, are considered to be at epidemic levels across the nation, with overdose deaths hitting record-highs. Provisional data from the CDC shows an estimated 105,000 deaths from drug overdoses in the 12-month period ending in Oct. 2021.

This is an increase over the estimated 100,306 drug overdose deaths that happened in the United States in the 12-month period ending in April 2021.

In his State of the Union speech on March 1, President Joe Biden addressed the opioid epidemic.

“There is so much we can do,” he said. “Increase funding for prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery. “

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