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Fentanyl Crisis Claims Over 500 Lives

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“As society degrades, a broader segment of it will choose drugs, moving images, dormancy. Yet this subset will cling, surprisingly, to a single public duty: that of electing a ruling class.” —Author Miles Klee, June 2012

A grim new statistic has emerged in the wake of 2022’s messy midterm elections. San Francisco’s fentanyl crisis has claimed over five hundred lives. Twice as many San Franciscans have died from fentanyl-related overdoses than COVID-19. Substance-related deaths are on the rise. Alzheimer’s, cancer, and heart failure are the only diseases whose deaths outpace them. 

Fueling these overdoses in part is a dangerous, misanthropic myth that fentanyl-contaminated drugs are only a threat to the homeless. Of the dead, seventy-five percent of them had what KRON4’s John Ferrannini calls fixed addresses. “Of the victims this year, 79% were male and 21% female. Forty-seven percent were white, 29% were Black and 15% were Latino,” he wrote. Just because your dealer’s white and rich does not automatically mean he’s got the good stuff. Be responsible. Test your stash.

Fentanyl is to heroin what the hydrogen bomb was to Little Boy, somewhere “between 30-50 times stronger. A 3-milligram dose is enough to kill an average adult male,” according to the United States Department of Justice. Its lethality surpasses that of any natural poison. On Sunday night, Oct. 9th, San Francisco Police arrested 24-year-old Miguel Ramos in the Tenderloin. On him they found 7.7 pounds of the synthetic opioid, “an amount sufficient to kill more than the entire population in San Francisco,” said Interim District Attorney Brooke Jenkins. Prosecutors did the math; Ramos carried enough killing power in his backpack to end 1.5 million lives.

Always test your stash.

Not an addict

No one cares about people with addictions. The hate they have for them feels justified. To outsiders, their hells are self-assigned. They don’t even register as being human, no longer ‘people’ but ‘addicts.’ 

Hatefulness hides in language. It takes a conscious cultural shift to correct it. For example, the overdue exchange of ‘slave’ for ‘enslaved people’ restores humanity to victims of the slave trade. But you don’t just append the word ‘people’ to the same terms others use to denigrate them. There’s another factor at work. It’s about remembering who’s accountable; just who enslaved those people?

Evading liability is a matter of grammar. ‘Slave’ conceals the enslaver. ‘Addict’ is an unusual word. It is noun, adjective, verb, all at once. You supplant the person you apply it with something static, inert: a definition, a sentence. As a descriptor for an entire class of people, ‘addict’ stems from its verb form, ‘to addict.’ Notice how you stress a different syllable in this pronunciation. It unconsciously compels you to attach a subject (who’s getting addicted?). In verb form, it’s transitive, meaning it won’t make sense without an object attached (getting addicted to what?). The missing link? An actor, a user. A person.

What you can do

Helping those who suffer from addiction isn’t pretty. It does not make a good photo op. Were it more glamorous to treat addiction with empathy, people might be more forthcoming. But our government foists that responsibility onto us as individuals by refusing to adopt socialized healthcare. Whether you indulge in white powders rarely or often, you’ll want to keep some Narcan on hand. Visit your nearest health department branch and pick some up, along with some fentanyl test strips. If you or somebody you love has ingested fentanyl, Narcan is your only chance to save them. Death occurs in as little as five minutes.

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Jake Warren

Jake Warren

A Potawatomi nonfiction writer and Tenderloin resident possessing an Indigenous perspective on sexuality and a fascination with etymological nuance. Queer decolonial leftist, cannabis industry affiliate, seasoned raver, and unofficial earthquake authority.