SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — San Francisco recorded 268 accidental overdose deaths during the first four months of the year which is 72 more deaths than this time last year, according to data from the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s Office.
“What we know is when there is heavy policing of people who use drugs, when there isn’t a safe place for them to go, it drives the overdose rates higher,” said Gary McCoy, HealthRIGHT 360.
HealthRIGHT 360 is a nonprofit that offers substance abuse treatment. McCoy says some factors have changed that may be driving up overdose rates and deaths. “Increase rates of charging for people who use drugs, increased citations and arrests for people who use drugs,” said McCoy.
In July of 2022, San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said officers were cracking down on drug use in the Tenderloin to combat open-air drug use and dealing. The Tenderloin center, which closed in December of 2022, served as a temporary safe consumption site.
“When you’re using in a doorway, or in a public place, a park in front of a business, you tend to rush your use. You tend to use more so that you’re not using more frequently for fear of being caught,” said McCoy.
The majority of people who overdosed had fentanyl in their system. McCoy says there are ways to prevent the deadly drug from getting into people’s hands. “A lot of folks have been pushing for safer supply which would be getting a pharmaceutical grade equivalent under supervision with a provider and then you know if doesn’t have that fentanyl in it,” said McCoy.
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The city currently publishes the number of accidental overdose deaths every month since the beginning of 2020. The year with the most deaths was in 2020 with 725 deaths.
This year, however, is on pace to have more accidental overdoses.