CA: Fentanyl Deaths Rise In Santa Clara County, Officials Raise Alarm

Many of the deaths are linked to people who are not aware that fake pills or other narcotics are laced with fentanyl.

The number of overdose deaths attributed to fentanyl in Santa Clara County this year was expected to surpass last year’s total of 88 — which was more than triple the number of deaths in 2019 — according to county officials.

Between January and August, 49 deaths in the county were fentanyl-related, a number that is expected to increase. Many of the deaths were linked to people who were not aware that fake pills or other narcotics were laced with fentanyl, county officials said.

A fatal dose of fentanyl is 2 milligrams, which is equivalent to a few grains of salt, according to Deputy District Attorney Brian Buckelew. Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

Much of the fentanyl being seized in Santa Clara County is not pharmaceutical grade but is illicitly manufactured in Mexico and brought across the border, Buckelew told Patch in an interview Wednesday.

“You have people going after this opioid high,” Buckelew said. “They seek the highest heights. The line between that and the overdose death is very fine. You see more and more people tipping into fatal overdoses, unfortunately.”

Law enforcement agencies in the county continued to seize large quantities of fake fentanyl-containing pills as well as pure powdered fentanyl. People as young as 12 or 13 years of age — who don’t know that a certain drug contains fentanyl and don’t take any harm reduction steps — have become victims, Buckelew said.

The hardest part of his job is talking to parents of the deceased, he said.

“Young people are naive or inexperienced,” Buckelew said. “You just have a decision that they could not ostensibly foresee because many of them don’t know what they’re taking. It’s tragic, and it’s a complete Waste

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Another demographic that is seeing an increase in fentanyl-related deaths is homeless people. Between July 9 and Aug. 9, 36 people without housing have died in Santa Clara County, compared to 16 deaths last year during the same time period. At least seven deaths were attributed to fatal overdoses from methamphetamine containing fentanyl.

A Campaign To Help

The county’s Behavioral Health Services Department, District Attorney’s Office, the Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office and the Public Health Department are launching the Expect Fentanyl campaign to raise awareness and to lessen opioid overdoses.

The main messages include learning to use naloxone — a drug that can be lifesaving if used immediately after an overdose — and not using alone and knowing the source of a drug.

The campaign attempts to reach people actively using and make them aware of the precautions that they should be taking, such as assuming that fentanyl is in everything, according to Roxanne Butterfield, who works with the Public Health Department’s needle exchange program.

Butterfield told Patch that outreach attempts have been met with “great success.” The county provides naloxone, contained in the brand-name Narcan, to those who request it, and outreach workers are well known among the community of people without housing, Butterfield said.

She said that people are scared because many either know someone who has overdosed or have overdosed themselves.

“Just because someone’s using drugs doesn’t mean that they don’t want to take care of themselves, so this is a way to do that,” Butterfield said.

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Tags: Addiction Services Fentanyl Naloxone Opioid Epidemic Overdose Programs" >Needle Exchange Program
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