Fentanyl Deaths Rising

Medical Examiner-Coroner Confirms 53 Fentanyl Overdose Deaths as of November 10, 2020

Santa Clara County, Calif.— The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner has confirmed 53 deaths due to fentanyl overdoses this year, compared to a total of 29 fentanyl-related fatalities in 2019. The number of fentanyl fatalities is expected to rise through the end of 2020. The County of Santa Clara encourages residents to stay safe and avoid the dangers of opioids, and specifically fake pills that may contain fentanyl. 

Confirmed fentanyl overdoses this year have happened in youth as young as 16 years old and adults as old as 60, with many more cases being investigated by the Medical Examiner.

“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.”

Fentanyl Facts

  • Fentanyl is a very powerful opioid drug— 80-100 times more powerful than morphine—and exposure to even small amounts can cause overdose and death. Fentanyl can kill in a matter of minutes.
  • Opioids are the most addictive drugs and have the highest risk of overdose. Illegal drugs or prescription drugs obtained illegally have the highest risk because you cannot be sure what is in it or how strong it is.
  • Many opioid pills are made by counterfeiting organizations and most pills on the street are fake. 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.
  • Taking fake pills in any circumstance could have deadly consequences. Do not take any pill that you did not get directly 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.

If someone cannot be woken up, or is snoring or breathing irregularly after taking unknown pills or powder, call 9-1-1 immediately. Narcan (Naloxone) can reverse an overdose and be lifesaving. Call 9-1-1 immediately if administering Narcan to someone who cannot be awakened.

“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.” 

Free Narcan® training and kits can be obtained from the following:

  • 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

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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Media Contacts: Laurel Anderson, Office of Communications and Public Affairs, 408-299-5119; Joy Alexiou, County of Santa Clara Health System, 408-595-2936 or 408-885-4164

Posted: November 20, 2020


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