ActivismSan Francisco

Deadly Form of Heroin is Killing Users in San Francisco

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Posters reading ‘Deadly Street Drugs Alert!!’ have been hung in parks and along muni lines in San Francisco by the Haight Ashbury Legal Organization (H.A.L.O.).  The posters read:

“Fentynal-lased heroin and meth are causing deaths and overdoses at this time in San Francisco (FEB 2018)  it has also been found in pills.  Don’t Risk it!  fentynal Test Kits are available at needle exchange sites.  Carry Naloxone, know how to use it and never shoot up alone.  Love yourself and each other.”

Fentynal is the synthetic cousin to heroin.  The reason why fentynal is so dangerous is that it can be 25 to 50 times more potent than heroin and 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.  If the user is not aware that they are using fentynal it is incredibly easy to overdose, and on the street, it is very easy to make that mistake.  The poster also mentions ‘Naloxone’, which is a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose.  (I learned a lot about heroin this morning). The rise in opioid addiction in the U.S. is a serious problem, cheap and potent drug substitutes like fentynal make it even more dangerous and deadly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50.

CDC Data shows that 63,600 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017. About 42,000 of them died after taking opioids. Among these deaths, 19,000 were due to a synthetic opioid.

CDC graph showing the number of overdose-related deaths broken down by the category of opioid-involved.  As you can see synthetic opioids are the leading cause of overdoses.

Last year over 100 people died in San Francisco of drug overdose according to a report published by San Francisco Safe Injection Services Task Force.   There are an estimated 22,000 intravenous drug users in San Francisco and the San Francisco Department of Public Health recently took action.  SFDPH unanimously endorsed ISTF’s recommendation to open what could become the nation’s first legal safe injection sites aimed at curbing the opioid epidemic.

Two weeks ago (feb 22), 3 men overdosed and died in front of a school in the Haight Ashbury District, according to the Department of Public Health all three men had methamphetamine, cocaine and fentanyl in their bodies, which suggests that the methamphetamine was probably laced with the fentanyl and acetyl fentanyl, which is what killed them.  In other words, this stuff can kill you in very small doses whether you smoke, swallow, or inject it.

These alert posters (and public service announcements) are signed by ‘Erin, Jennie, and Mark of H.A.L.O.’ An organization affiliated with the music and drug scene of San Francisco. The Haight Ashbury Legal Organization (H.A.L.O.) originated at the famous Grateful Dead house at 710 Ashbury Street, where Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and Ron “Pigpen” McKernan (among others) lived in the late 1960’s.  The Hell’s Angels famously lived across the street, as did the famous psychedelic poster artists Alton Kelley and Stanley Mouse.  Some of the hippest writers of the time from Hunter S. Thompson to Ben Fong-Torres were in the neighborhood covering that culture, music, and generation-defining Haight Ashbury scene of San Francisco.  Seems like the org is still looking out for the Haight.

Grateful Dead and other SF Bands at 710 Ashbury St. in the late 1960s.  HALO isn’t based there anymore.

As the posters say, there are fentynal test kits available as well as clean needles in several Exchange Sites in San Francisco.  Here a list of them:

List of active Needle Exchange Sites in San Francisco

Be safe out there.

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Alex Mak - Managing Editor

Alex Mak - Managing Editor

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