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Santa Clara County sees dramatic rise in fentanyl overdoses amid shelter in place order

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SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KRON) — In the South Bay, the coronavirus is not the only public health crisis. 

Health officials and law enforcement are sounding the alarm about a dramatic spike in fatal overdoses of fentanyl. 

“In the last week or two there have been approximately seven fatal fentanyl overdoses, which year over year is off the charts,” said Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Brian Buckelew. 

Widely available fake opioid pills and other street drugs laced with the fentanyl have been linked to 19 deaths so far this year compared with seven a year ago. Ten of those people were between 16 and 25 years old.

“A number of these young people are getting these pills through Snapchat and other social media outlets,” Buckelew said. 

Fentanyl overdoses represent the other current public health crisis and may be related to the coronavirus pandemic, says Behavior Health Specialist Mira Parwiz.

“I do believe the shelter in place has played a role, in the past two to three months people have tended to use more of these substances,” Parwiz said. “We are seeing more substance abuse calls and overdoses.”

“We have a great concern that young people being out of school have more free time, they are bored and they are looking for new experiences,” Buckelew said. 

Buckelew says some users know they are taking fentanyl while others do not. 

A recent fatal overdose led to the county’s first fentanyl-related murder charge. 

“Where you have a drug dealer knowingly selling fentanyl aware of it’s dangerous properties to someone who does not know they’re purchasing fentanyl, thinking they are buying oxycodone who then overdoses and dies,” Buckelew said. 

Among the more common forms of fentanyl are fake percocet pills stamped with an ‘M’ on one side and the number 30 on the other. 

“It’s setting the stage with the shelter in place for young people to experiment with drugs and it can kill you,” Buckelew said.

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