Bags of heroin, some laced with fentanyl, are displayed before a press conference regarding a major drug bust, at the office of the New York Attorney General, September 23, 2016 in New York City.

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Fentanyl Deaths Soar In San Francisco

KCBS Radio Afternoon News
August 09, 2019 - 1:42 pm

SAN FRANCISCO — Fentanyl overdoses in San Francisco have reached a new high.

According to the city’s department of public health, 89 people died from fentanyl last year. That is more than prescription opioids or heroin, and a 147% increase from the year before.

“[Patients> don’t realize that this a very potent type of opioid compared to morphine,” said Dr. Ray Ho with the California Poison Control System in San Francisco. The DEA estimates fentanyl is 80-100 times stronger than morphine. “It doesn’t take much to put someone at risk of CNS (central nervous system) and respiratory depression, resulting in potentially death.”

Fentanyl is sometimes prescribed as a painkiller in miniscule amounts, due to its potency.

“The dosing for fentanyl normally is in microgram range. So it doesn’t take much,” said Ho.

But people buying fentanyl on the street may not know exactly how much they are taking, especially if it is mixed with another drug.

That makes it very easy for people to overdose, such as a couple who tried to buy Xanax on the street, according to Ho. 

“Turned out these were fake Xanax, they end up having fentanyl and there were two deaths because of that," Ho said.

Experts say the opioid crisis has come in three waves: first pills, then heroin and finally fentanyl. A couple years ago, fentanyl was widely available in eastern states but relatively rare in California. 

Reported by Jim Taylor. Written by Jessica Yi.