A homeless man lies on the street in San Francisco on Feb. 23, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Overdose deaths in San Francisco climbed to a new record last year, soaring to 806, according to preliminary findings Jan. 17 from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
According to the results, 2023 saw the most overdoses ever in the city, surpassing a previous record of 726 three years ago. The medical examiner’s office said estimates for December were preliminary at 52 overdoses—which could increase—due to the city’s monthly average for such deaths of 69.
Most overdoses last year, the examiner’s office said, involved fentanyl—an opiate 50 times stronger than heroin. According to the examiner, fentanyl has been at least partially involved in four out of every five overdose deaths in the city since 2020.
Heroin was implicated in the least number of deaths last year, with fewer than five overdoses each month. Oxycodone (OxyContin) or hydrocodone (Vicodin) accounted for fewer than 10 deaths each month. Cocaine and methamphetamine were at least partially involved in 252 and 354 deaths last year, respectively.
According to the examiner, more than 80 percent of the deaths were men and less than 30 percent were homeless.
Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the city’s health department, said in a news conference when the numbers were announced, that the city would need help from lawmakers at every level of government to tackle the drug crisis.
“San Francisco alone cannot solve this problem of record overdoses deaths. ... We rely on our city and community partners and our legislators at the local, state and federal level to join us in this moment to continue to tackle this crisis,” he said according to the San Francisco Chronicle
In an effort to curb the problem, last year San Francisco Mayor London Breed placed a measure
on the March 2024 ballot that would require drug screenings of welfare recipients and require substance abuse treatment for single adults who test positive.
“We want to help people, but we also need people to be trying to enter into the various treatment and services options we offer in this City,” she said in an October news release. “We will continue to fund a wide range of services to help people struggling with substance use disorder, but we also need to add accountability as part of the equation.”
In 2022, more than half of all homeless in the city listed drugs or alcohol as a “disabling health condition,” according to a survey
by the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.
Also last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom assigned the National Guard and officers from the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to help curb trafficking of fentanyl into the city, attempting to disrupt its supply and holding operators of drug rings accountable, according to an April news release by his office.
In October, a new task force was created to investigate opioid linked deaths
, according to his office, and in December CHP officers seized more than 40 pounds of fentanyl—or 9 million lethal doses, according to officials. Authorities have also said they made more than 428 arrests and wrote around 4,500 citations in 2023 related to the deadly drug.
“We’re cleaning up San Francisco’s streets. Working alongside our local and federal partners, the CHP is seizing more drugs and more illegal guns and providing the safety and security every Californian deserves,” Mr. Newsom said in a December press release.