Fentanyl has hit a depressing milestone in San Francisco as it has surpassed prescription pills and heroin as the leading cause of opioid overdose deaths in the city. Fentanyl is a synthetic painkiller that is up to 100 times more potent than morphine. In 2018, 39 overdose deaths were attributed to heroin and 53 to prescription opioids such as codeine and oxycodone. However, there were 57 overdose deaths attributed to fentanyl last year. Dr. Phillip Coffin, director of substance use research for the health department, stated the following regarding fentanyl,
A couple of years ago we started seeing fentanyl powder popping up on the street and normalized as an additional opioid in San Francisco. And now it’s fairly established. It’s not going away anytime soon.
The number of fentanyl related overdose deaths in 2018 is a large increase compared to the six fentanyl related overdose deaths in 2010. It’s important to note that the 2018 numbers from the city’s Public Health Department are preliminary and need to be confirmed. Shockingly, fentanyl is reportedly replacing heroin and prescription pills as some users’ narcotic of choice, whereas it used to just be a strong contaminant of other street drugs. According to Dr. Coffin, people can die in just five minutes with fentanyl, and it would only take an amount as small as a grain of sand to cause this. Hopefully a solution to this issue is figured out before more deaths occur.