Fentanyl deaths spike in Santa Clara County

While much of the region’s public health experts, rightfully, have been squarely focused on COVID-19, another deadly crisis continues to take a toll in our area.

In less than four months, 19 fentanyl deaths have hit Santa Clara County. That’s up from seven during the same period last year. 29 people died from the powerful opioid in all of 2019.

Fentanyl, which is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine, can kill with only a miniscule exposure.

Health experts worry that fake pills, containing lethal doses of the narcotic, have caused the deaths. The pills, made to look like oxycodone prescription pills, with even traces of fentanyl can kill.

The deceased range from 16 to 56 years old. 10 of the 19 deaths are among 16-25 year olds.

“County law enforcement agencies have seized pure powdered fentanyl and routinely find fentanyl as an additive in other street drugs such as methamphetamine and cocaine,” the county statement about the deaths read.

Officials warn against taking any medication not obtained directly from a licensed pharmacy.

To help fight the supply of the dangerous drug, the Santa Clara District Attorney and local law enforcement have stepped up seizures. An interagency rapid response team is also working to investigate deaths and provide community resources.

A key tool in combatting fentanyl and other opioid overdoses is Naloxone or Narcan. It is now available from a pharmacy by prescription.

To access the county’s substance use treatment hotline, call 1-800-488-9919. For substance abuse treatment support for young adults, call 408-272-6518.