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Dangerous New Strain of Fentanyl Claims Dozens of Lives in S.F.

San Francisco's medical examiner found a new and more potent strain of fentanyl in dozens of overdose deaths in the city last year, eclipsing the fatalities attributed to the notorious, new street drug xylazine, known as "tranq," the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The new threat, fluorofentanyl, can range from half to five times as powerful as prescribed fentanyl. The medical examiner found it in 45 deaths, while xylazine, a veterinary tranquilizer not intended for human consumption, was identified in 15 cases. Different kinds of fentanyl were found in 12 cases. All tranq cases also contained fentanyl. The findings came from the ME's retesting of most of last year's 647 overdose deaths in the city in a search for hundreds of novel synthetic opioids to try to better understand the drug supply.


The concerning findings present a new challenge for San Francisco in its response to the drug crisis, which has killed more than 400 people so far this year — on track as the worst toll since 2020. The report published Tuesday said that “these findings hold immense value as they not only inform public health initiatives but also enable a more comprehensive cause of death analysis to the public and families.” The medical examiner’s office said it didn’t know how many of the deaths this year involved fluorofentanyl because it didn’t have capacity to conduct that testing. The health department said Tuesday its focus continues to be on preventing overdoses involving all fentanyl-related drugs, which are driving deaths locally and nationally. The approach involves many strategies, including expanding inpatient treatment beds and access to medications for addiction treatment known as buprenorphine and methadone. It also includes engaging individuals who experienced a nonfatal overdose with services or treatment, continued outreach by street-based engagement teams and widely distributing overdose-reversing medication, the department said.

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