Fentanyl deaths on the rise in Santa Clara County

Coroner reports 53 deaths so far in 2020

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Deaths by fentanyl overdose are sharply on the rise in Santa Clara County this year, as the Medical Examiner-Coroner revealed that 53 residents have died from the drug as of Nov. 10, according to county officials.

That’s up from a total of 29 deaths by fentanyl overdose in 2019. The number of fatalities in 2020 is expected to rise through the rest of the year.

Fentanyl is a powerful opioid drug that is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Exposure to even small amounts of fentanyl can cause overdose and death, according to health officials.

Heightening the danger is the increasing illicit distribution of fake pills that contain fentanyl, which a user might take thinking it is another drug.

Confirmed fentanyl overdoses in Santa Clara County this year have occurred in teens as young as 16 and adults as old as 60, reads a press release from the county.

“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,” said Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner Dr. Michelle Jorden. “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.”

Many opioid pills are made by counterfeiting organizations and most pills on the street are fake, according to county staff. 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.

Health officials advise residents not to take any pills that were not acquired 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,” says the press release.

Narcan (Naloxone) can reverse an overdose and be lifesaving, according to county staff. Call 9-1-1 immediately if administering Narcan to someone who cannot be awakened.

The county offers free Narcan training and kits at multiple locations:

• Santa Clara County Opioid Overdose Prevention Project (sccgov.org/sccoopp):

• Central Valley Clinic, 2425 Enborg Lane, San Jose, 408-885-5400, Monday to Sunday, 1-2pm.

• Alexian Health Clinic, 2101 Alexian Drive, Suite B, San Jose, 408-272-6073, Monday to Sunday, 1-2pm.

• South County Clinic, 90 Highland Avenue, Building J, San Martin, 408-272-6073, Monday to Sunday, 1-2pm.

Appointments for other times Monday to Friday can be made by calling the phone numbers listed above.

• County of Santa Clara Public Health Department (sccnex.org):

• The Crane Center, 976 Lenzen Avenue, San Jose, 408-482-9707. Free fentanyl test strips are also available.

“Fentanyl is a very powerful opioid drug and can kill in a matter of minutes. The risk of death increases if a person takes these drugs alone,” said Bruce Copley, Director of Drug and Alcohol Services. “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.” 

The County of Santa Clara Behavioral Health Department offers services for those who are struggling with substance use issues, which can be exacerbated by other stressors, including the holidays and the novel Coronavirus pandemic. The Behavioral Health Services Department offers the following help:

• Substance use treatment services/Gateway: 1-800-488-9919

• Mental Health Services: 1-800-704-0900

• Youth and Young Adult Substance Use Treatment Services: 408-272-6518

(Monday to Friday, 8am-5pm)

For more information on substance use treatment services for adults, visit https://www.sccgov.org/sites/bhd/info/suts-resources-info/Pages/SUTS-Info.aspx

For services for youth, visit https://www.sccgov.org/sites/bhd/info/YouthSUTreatmentServices/Pages/home.aspx.

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