SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Fentanyl is the leading driver of drug overdose deaths in the United States and San Francisco. That’s based on a January report from San Francisco city officials.
The city recorded 620 accidental drug overdose deaths in 2022, according to data from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. That is a decrease from 640 in 2021 and 725 in 2020.
Notably, the South of Market (SoMa) and Tenderloin neighborhoods are among the areas most affected by the fentanyl crisis. In the last three years, SoMa and Tenderloin were the top two neighborhoods where individuals who overdosed are from and the location of their death.
Last year, KRON4 reported three fentanyl busts in SoMa in the month of April. A total of 951 grams (951,000 milligrams) of fentanyl was seized by police. That’s enough fentanyl to kill roughly 475,500 people. According to the DEA, two milligrams of fentanyl can be deadly.
That’s just a snippet of this dangerous narcotic percolating across these areas in San Francisco.
In 2022, 22% of the 620 who accidentally overdosed and died are from the Tenderloin; 20% of those individuals died in that neighborhood. Sixteen percent of them died in SoMa, and 17% resided in SoMa. (Keep in mind a number of these individuals are unhoused and do not have a listed address.)
SF Supervisor Matt Dorsey of District 6, which is where SoMa is located, said those two neighborhoods take turns for where the issue is most prominent.
“It’s the neighborhoods of the Tenderloin, South of Market and Polk area that are disproportionally losing their lives,” Dorsey told KRON4. “It’s also often where most of the drug dealing happens. Usually, it goes back and forth between the Tenderloin and (SoMa) for which neighborhood is worse in terms of where people are dying and where people are residents.
“I live in a part of South of Market at Mission and 8th where a lot of drug dealing happens. Every day I walk into City Hall, on my way here, I’m walking by drug dealers. And we have to do something about it.”
District 6 (view map) consists mostly of the SoMa neighborhood, although the district doesn’t technically oversee the Tenderloin. Most of the Tenderloin is also in District 5, which is supervised by Dean Preston.
From 2020-2022, fentanyl was the leading cause of death compared to other narcotics. Each year, at least 100 more people died in San Francisco from fentanyl than the second-leading drug (methamphetamine).
In 2022, over 70 percent (71%) of all accidental overdoses in San Francisco were caused by fentanyl, according to city data. That number was also over 70 percent for 2021 and 2020.
However, there was a reported 14% decrease in overdose deaths (all drugs) during that time span (2020-2022). Although accidental overdose deaths have decreased, fentanyl and drug overdose still remain an issue in San Francisco.
“We’re making very slow progress in drug overdoses,” Dorsey said. “Last month, we’re back up to two deaths per day. We had a 60-overdose month, so that’s not going in the right direction. I think if you look at year over year, it’s getting slightly better… but we need to make much more progress than that.”
Dorsey added that more aggressively prosecuting drug dealers will contribute to that downward trend.
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Data from 2020 to 2022 gathered by the city and county can be viewed below. In the graphs, San Francisco officials did not state which narcotic those aforementioned individuals specifically died from.
2022: SF Accidental Drug Overdose Data
2021: SF Accidental Drug Overdose Data
2020: SF Accidental Drug Overdose Data
Last month, the city released drug overdose data for January 2023. As of data compiled by Feb. 10, there have been 62 cases of accidental overdose that were fatal, and 47 of them were linked to fentanyl (75%). Thirty-six of them were linked to methamphetamine and 32 to cocaine.
Keep in mind not all deaths are caused exclusively by one drug. For example, a drug like fentanyl can be laced with another narcotic.