Last year we reported on the spate of counterfeit Xanax hitting the streets of San Francisco which was actually fentanyl and led to the deaths of three friends in one house, aged 20 to 40. Fentanyl is a rapid-onset, short-duration painkiller that's considered 100 times more potent than morphine, and is typically only used in a hospital setting to treat cancer patients, via a patch. However it seems more and more it is making its way into counterfeit pills being sold on the streets, and even more alarming, as KTVU reports, there may have been upwards of 300 cases overdoses and near-deaths just around the city, and concentrated around the Civic Center area where pills are often sold on the street.
According to Eliza Wheeler, the manager of the DOPE Project (Drug, Overdose, Prevention, Education), the uptick in fentanyl overdoses here was dramatic last year. "It was so crazy," she said. "I was walking downtown during the worst time of it and outside Civic Center BART there were just wrappers of [the overdose-reversal drug] Naloxone on the ground." Wheeler's organization helps distribute Naloxone, also known as Narcan, and she says her group counted 345 overdose reversals in one five-month period which means 345 individuals who nearly died from respiratory depression from fentanyl or another drug.
An area drug user named Easy confirms it for the station saying, "Every 5 to 10 minutes you [would] hear the ambulance rolling, it was because someone was on their backs dead from Fentanyl right in the middle of Civic Center." Easy himself said he'd knowingly tried fentanyl as an alternative to heroin, and he nearly died and had to be revived three separate times from fentanyl patches.
There was news last month that fentanyl masquerading as the drug Norco had killed at least nine people in the Sacramento area, and now KTVU says that number is actually up to 14. Also, the CDC has a separate report of seven fentanyl-related deaths since March. The relatively low number of deaths in SF can be easily linked to the program that equips all SFPD officers with Naloxone that can be administered nasally.
The CDC issued a warning in 2015 about the rise in the illicit manufacture of fentanyl, and the rising number of fentanyl seizures by law enforcement around the country. They reported on at least 700 deaths between 2013 and 2014 connected to illegal fentanyl being sold on the streets.
A DEA agent tells KTVU he believes the fentanyl we're seeing here is being manufactured in China, bought wholesale by Mexican drug lords for about $3,300 per kilo, and sold for as much as $1 million.
The moral remains: Do not take anyone's prescription drugs when you didn't see them come from a pharmacy yourself! (And don't take other people's prescription drugs in general, kids.) And anyone who suspects they may have ingested fentanyl should seek medical help within 30 minutes.