San Francisco issues stark warning after spike in fentanyl overdoses

San Francisco health officials issued a stern warning Thursday following what they said was a recent spike in fentanyl overdoses, particularly among people who ingested the powerful opioid when they thought they were consuming. cocaine.

In the past two weeks, the city’s health department said it was alerted to three fatal fentanyl overdoses in San Francisco among people “who intended to use cocaine only but were unwittingly exposed to fentanyl”.

The health department also reported nine similar non-fatal overdoses in two groups of people.

There were about 474 deaths from fentanyl in 2021, the health department said.

Over the past two years, a record number of people have died from drug overdoses in San Francisco, about 70% of which involved fentanyl. But fentanyl was very rarely the only drug found in the system of people who fatally overdosed, according to medical examiner data.

The city’s health department said mixing fentanyl and stimulants like cocaine “could lead to unintended use of fentanyl in people who use stimulants and have little or no tolerance to opioids.”

Fentanyl can be up to 50 times more potent than heroin. It is sold on the street usually as a white or lavender powder that looks like cocaine.

Last weekend, five cadets at West Point during spring break in Florida overdosed on fentanyl mixed with cocaine they thought they were buying off the street. Four were hospitalized and had to be placed on ventilators.

The health department has asked all clinicians in San Francisco to prescribe naloxone, a drug that fights the effects of fentanyl, and that all patients using over-the-counter drugs be trained in the administration of naloxone. .

The drug is available free of charge from the BHS Pharmacy at 1380 Howard Street, the health department said. Users of non-prescription drugs at risk of fentanyl contamination have been advised to keep nalaxone with them at all times and know how to use it.

Sam Whiting is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @samwithingsf

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