San Francisco surpasses highest number of overdoses ever recorded in city’s history due mainly to fentanyl

The San Francisco Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) showed in its latest report that the city had the most accidental drug overdoses ever recorded in a single year, many of which involved fentanyl.

The report — released on the OCME’s website Thursday — shows the city had 752 accidental overdoses recorded during the first 11 months of 2023. The highest number of accidental overdoses recorded for an entire year was in 2020, with 726 reported by the OCME.

With a little more than two weeks left in 2023, the number of accidental overdoses is expected to rise by the end of the year.

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In 2022, San Francisco had a reported 649 accidental overdoses, meaning the city saw a nearly 16% increase for the year if the tallying was complete.

Of the 752 overdoses this year, men accounted for 623, women for 127, and non-binary individuals accounted for two.

Race is another factor OCME tracks, and the report shows 283 of the people who overdosed were White, 233 were Black, 140 were Latinx, 56 were unknown race, 35 were Asian, and five were Native American.

The OCME found 613 of the victims had fentanyl in their system, where last year only 459 of the reported 649 accidental overdoses involved fentanyl.

The office also reported that 37 overdoses involved heroin, 52 involved medicinal opioids like codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, and methadone, 387 had methamphetamines in their system and 346 involved cocaine.

Another substance tracked was Xylazine, a veterinary tranquilizer used and known on the streets as “tranq.” According to the report, 30 of the accidental overdoses involved Xylazine.

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In a summary at the beginning of the report, the OCME stated the information is preliminary and is subject to change while the office finalizes the manner and cause of each death.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the accidental overdoses continue to climb despite California Gov. Gavin Newsom and San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s efforts to crack down on dealers and disrupt the drug trafficking market.

Breed, the publication said, has sought a more aggressive approach to those suffering with addiction to fentanyl, having police go after drug users and dealers. The approach has taken criticism from some who argue the mayor is relying more on policing than addressing a public health crisis.

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Newsom sent the National Guard and state police to San Francisco earlier this year in an effort to put a damper on fentanyl trafficking in the city. An initiative that both leaders launched in October will investigate opioid deaths like homicides.

Fentanyl deaths have been plaguing the U.S. for years, with tens of thousands of deaths a year. Of the over 107,000 overdose deaths in 2021, 75% involved an opioid, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Illicit fentanyl is predominantly made in Mexico using Chinese precursors and then smuggled across the southern border, both through the ports of entry and between them. 

Seizures of the drug by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have skyrocketed in recent years, which the Biden administration has said is due to better screening and technology that it has installed at ports of entry. But Republicans have said it is due to an increase in attempts as a result of the border crisis — meaning more of the drug could be getting through.

Overdose deaths come primarily from Americans unknowingly taking pills or drugs laced with fentanyl, which can be fatal in tiny doses and is 50 times stronger than heroin.

Fox News Digital’s Adam Shaw contributed to this report.

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