Fentanyl has been used for patches, epidurals and as a prescription pain, but it has started to be used and traded illegally in recent years. Particularly in the Northeast United States, fentanyl has been produced in the form of cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl-laced heroin.
Which were the effects of such actions?
According to the California Department of Public Health, numerous people died from overdosing on fentanyl in the past few years – 81 people who died in 2013, 237 in 2016 and 746 in 2017. Public health officials began tracking these numbers in 2008 and 2017 was the year with the highest number of deaths.
The situation in California
Philip Coffin, director of substance use research at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, stated that the effects of fentanyl as illicit opioid are visible in California. Users can accidentally overdose on fentanyl because they don’t know how much of it is mixed with the other drugs.
In Contra Costa counties, Santa Clara, San Francisco and Bay Area, the highest numbers of fentanyl deaths were recorded. According to state data, in San Francisco, 22 out of 105 overdose deaths were attributed to fentanyl in 2016 which is double in comparison with the numbers from 2015. Moreover, 26 people died in Contra Costa counties and 24 in Santa Clara.
But overall, the number of deaths is slightly decreasing from 2,031 in 2016 to 1,882 in 2017, the lowest number since 2011. The reason for this is that most heroin sold is black tar heroin. On the East Coast, traders tend to mix fentanyl, a white powder, with white powder heroin.
At the Ross Valley Fire Department in Marin County, there’s an antidote drug called Naloxone which can be administered to people who have overdosed on various opioids, even illegal fentanyl.