Fentanyl has killed more people than COVID-19 in San Francisco.
1,875 people died of drug overdoses in San Francisco from January 2021 to February 2022, according to records released by the city.
“It’s very dark but it’s the reality,” said Jack Terwelp, program director of Marina Harbor Detox, a San Francisco drug rehabilitation center.
In the past two years alone, Terwelp says he’s lost a dozen friends to fentanyl. His employees share the same pain.
RELATED: Enough fentanyl to ‘wipe out 4 times the population of San Francisco’ seized, police chief says
“Employees come up to me every day and say, ‘I have another funeral to do…do you mind if I have another day off?'” Terwelp said. what we’re up against.”
The Moms Against Drug Deaths group funded a $25,000 billboard that went up in Union Square this week to denounce the fentanyl crisis.
The message reads: “Famous around the world for our brains, our beauty and now cheap fentanyl.”
“What’s your reaction to that?” asked ABC7’s Stephanie Sierra.
“Finally… finally someone says what’s really going on,” Terwelp said.
VIDEO: SF billboard calling for open drug use could expand to Europe if city sees no change
The highly addictive synthetic opioid, also known as ‘fent’, is devastating our streets.
According to the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s Office, there were 645 accidental overdose deaths last year. About 75% was due to fentanyl. Almost 60% of those deaths occurred in three areas of the city – the Tenderloin, Soma and Nob Hill. Most of the victims are men.
“Incredibly deadly…even a tiny bit kills,” said Dr. Anna Lembke, director of the Stanford Addiction Medicine Clinic.
Lembke says fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin and is associated with all street drugs, including Xanax, marijuana and other counterfeit opioids like OxyContin.
“So people think they’re taking Xanax or OxyContin, but they’re actually taking a combination of different drugs, including fentanyl,” Lembke said.
RELATED: 2 men charged after having enough fentanyl to kill 4.7 million found in SoCal van, DA says
About $510 million is being allocated for behavioral health programs to address the current drug crisis, according to the city’s 2021-22 budget. ABC7 News asked for a breakdown of how those funds were spent.
But if you ask Terwelp, there’s still a long way to go as the problem continues to get worse. In the past two years alone, he’s seen a 50% increase in the number of patients addicted to fentanyl — and many of them didn’t even know it.
“That’s the scary part,” he said. “They don’t even realize it until it’s too late.”
Copyright © 2022 KGO-TV. All rights reserved.