San Francisco records highest number of accidental drug overdoses in a single year as fentanyl-related deaths surge

The report indicates that the city experienced 752 accidental overdoses in the first 11 months of 2023, with the number expected to rise by the end of the year.

San Francisco records highest number of accidental drug overdoses in a single year as fentanyl-related deaths surge
AP Photo/José Luis Villegas, File
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San Francisco's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) has released a report revealing a record-breaking number of accidental drug overdoses in 2023, surpassing the previous annual high set in 2020.

The report indicates that the city experienced 752 accidental overdoses in the first 11 months of 2023, with the number expected to rise by the end of the year, Fox News reported.

This significant increase marks a nearly 16% jump compared to the 649 overdoses reported in 2022. The data shows a disproportionate impact on various demographics, with men accounting for the majority of these cases.

The breakdown by race indicates that White individuals comprised the largest group at 283, followed by Black at 233, “Latinx” at 140, 35 Asians, five Native Americans, and 56 of unknown ethnicity.

A notable finding in the OCME's report is the prevalence of fentanyl in these overdoses. Out of the 752 cases this year, 613 involved fentanyl, a substantial increase from 459 cases in 2022. The report also highlights overdoses involving other substances, including heroin, prescription opioids, methamphetamines, cocaine, and the veterinary tranquilizer Xylazine, known as "tranq."

The surge in accidental overdoses continues despite efforts by California Governor Gavin Newsom and San Francisco Mayor London Breed to address the drug crisis. Mayor Breed has adopted a more aggressive policing approach towards drug users and dealers, a strategy that has faced criticism for focusing more on law enforcement than public health solutions.

Governor Newsom's initiatives included deploying the National Guard and state police to San Francisco to reduce fentanyl trafficking. Additionally, a joint initiative launched in October aims to investigate opioid deaths with the same rigor as homicides.

The rise in fentanyl-related deaths reflects a broader national trend. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 107,000 overdose deaths occurred in 2021, with 75% involving opioids. The illicit production of fentanyl, primarily in Mexico using Chinese precursors and then smuggled into the U.S., has significantly contributed to this crisis.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has reported a surge in fentanyl seizures in recent years. The Biden administration attributes this to improved screening and technology at ports of entry, while some Republicans argue that it is a result of increased smuggling attempts linked to the broader border crisis.

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