Fatal fentanyl overdoses are on track to double this year in the South Bay compared to 2019, officials announced Friday.
Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner Dr. Michelle Jorden has confirmed 53 deaths from the powerful opioid so far in 2020.
The county recorded 29 in all of last year.
“The high number of fentanyl deaths this year is extremely troubling and worrisome, especially as we see it happening to both teenagers and adults, particularly young adults,” Dr. Jorden said. “Fentanyl can be found in fake pills, powders, and other drugs. Even one pill, a fragment of a pill or one snort can be fatal.”
On Thursday, the county issued a text alert to thousands of cellphones warning about fake pills and urging people to call 9-1-1 in case of an overdose.
“Fentanyl is a very powerful opioid drug and can kill in a matter of minutes,” county Director of Drug and Alcohol Services Bruce Copley explained in a press release emailed to reporters this morning. “The risk of death increases if a person takes these drugs alone. If you use opiates or know someone who might be using them, you can get the drug Narcan to stop an overdose. Friends and family can be trained on how to administer Narcan and can carry it with them to save a life in case of an emergency.”
Confirmed fentanyl overdoses this year have taken the lives of people as young as 16 years of age and as old as 60. The official death toll is expected to increase, as Dr. Jorden is investigating more suspected fentanyl fatalities.
County officials shared the following facts about the drug.
- Fentanyl is a very powerful opioid—80-100 times stronger than morphine—and exposure to even small amounts can cause overdose and death. Fentanyl can kill in just minutes.
- Opioids are the most addictive drugs and have the highest risk of overdose. Illegal drugs or prescription drugs obtained illegally have the highest risk because you cannot be sure what is in it or how strong it is.
- Many opioid pills are made by counterfeiting organizations and most pills on the street are fake. Fake pills are made to look like real prescription medications and come in different types, shapes and colors. Many of the fake oxycodone pills are blue, circular tablets marked with a letter “M” inside a square on one side, and the number “30” on the other. Fentanyl is also available in a powder form which is as dangerous and deadly.
- Taking fake pills in any circumstance could have deadly consequences. Do not take any pill that you did not get directly from a pharmacy. Do not take any pills given to you by a friend or buy pills from your friends or any other people. Do not use drugs alone - most overdose deaths happen when there is no one there to get help. If anything goes wrong, call 9-1-1 right away and stay with the person until help arrives.
To find out how to obtain free Narcan (naloxone) training and kits, which San Jose Inside wrote about a few years ago, click here. Or, call one of the following clinics between 1 and 2pm on Monday through Sunday:
- Central Valley, 2425 Enborg Lane, San Jose, 408.885.5400
- Alexian Health, 2101 Alexian Drive, Suite B, San Jose, 408.272.6073
- South County, 90 Highland Ave., Building J, San Martin, 408.272.6073
Appointments for other times Monday to Friday can be made by calling the phone numbers listed above or reaching out to the Santa Clara County Public Health Department at sccnex.org. The Crane Center, at 976 Lenzen Ave. in San Jose also offers resources, including free fentanyl test strips, and can be reached at 408.482.9707.
The Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Department offers services for those who struggle with substance use issues, which tend to worsen under stressors such as the holidays and the pandemic. To find help, reach out to the following numbers:
- Substance use treatment services, Gateway: 800.488.9919
- Mental Health Services: 800.704.0900
- Youth and Young Adult Substance Use Treatment: 408.272.6518