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Fentanyl Addiction in San Francisco

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Fentanyl addiction has become an epidemic in San Francisco. While fentanyl use has not been as prevalent in California as it has been in the eastern United States, fentanyl has grown in prominence over the past several years.

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. It is a prescription drug that is used to treat severe pain, especially in cancer patients and patients recovering from surgery. Fentanyl is also extremely potent. In fact, it is 50-100 stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin.

Synthetic opioids such as fentanyl are now the most common cause of drug overdose deaths in the United States. In 2017, fentanyl actually accounted for 59% of those drug-related deaths.

What Are the Effects of Fentanyl on the Body?

Fentanyl, like most opioids, reduces pain and increases a person’s sense of relaxation and euphoria. But fentanyl also has harmful side effects, including dizziness, confusion, vomiting and respiratory depression. The biggest cause for concern, however, is potential overdose. Because fentanyl is so strong, users are at a high risk of overdose, especially when fentanyl is mixed with another drug. It can result in an accidental death even after just one use.

Fentanyl Overdoses in San Francisco

According to the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH), there were 89 deaths from accidental fentanyl overdoses last year, up from 36 fentanyl overdoses in 2017. This is a dramatic 147% increase of fentanyl overdose deaths for 2018. It is also the largest increase in fentanyl-related deaths that San Francisco has ever experienced.

Director of Substance Use at SFDPH Dr. Phillip Coffin attributes the rise in fentanyl use to its comparatively low cost, as fentanyl is cheaper than heroin and may also be better quality than heroin. Dr. Coffin also reports that while fentanyl first entered San Francisco in 2015, last year was the first time mortality rates increased significantly.

San Francisco Fentanyl Addiction Treatment

San Francisco has started implementing preventative and treatment measures to combat the epidemic. These methods include:

  • Use of Naxolone, a medication that can counter the effects of opioid overdose by removing the opiates from the brain’s receptors.
  • Distribution of fentanyl test strips, which show if fentanyl is present in another drug. Fentanyl is often laced with other drugs such as cocaine without the drug user’s knowledge. Fentanyl combined with other drugs is an especially lethal combination.
  • Education programs related to fentanyl and overdosing.
  • Addiction treatment.

If you or someone you know needs treatment for a fentanyl addiction or overdose, BAART Programs offers medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs, individualized treatment and counseling at multiple locations in the Bay Area:

Our clinic staff offers evidence-based, safe and affordable treatments with proven results. We know each person and situation is different, so we design personalized treatment plans for our patients that support them on their path to recovery. Contact us today to learn more or to schedule an intake at one of our San Francisco locations.

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