San Francisco is facing its deadliest year ever for drug overdose deaths with 692 people dying so far this year – more than in the whole of 2022.
The city is on track for over 800 deaths this year – which would top its highest year on record, 2020, when 726 people died.
The rise in drug deaths goes hand in hand with a crime wave which has forced businesses to shut down and emptied the city center.
August was the deadliest month, with someone dying from an overdose every nine hours on average – while in October, an average of two people died each day.
So far this year, 572 of the deaths – 80 percent – have been caused by a fentanyl overdose – as the city tries a raft of policies to end the deaths as experts say ‘clearly the city has not done well enough’.
San Francisco is on track for its deadliest year ever for drug overdoses, with 692 people dying before November and the total predicted to hit over 800
Open use drug addicts in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco – Fentanyl is the leading driver of drug overdose deaths in the United States, as well as San Francisco
Fentanyl, is a potent synthetic opioid that’s frequently trafficked from Mexico and can kill in even tiny quantities. The drug is 50-100 times stronger than morphine.
It is cheap, packs down small, is relatively easy to smuggle into the US, and is mixed into pills that then claim the lives of users, who are often unaware they are taking something so powerful.
Fentanyl is the latest stage in the opioid crisis which started in America in the early 2000s when millions of people became addicted to prescription opioids that were marketed by drug companies and readily handed out by doctors.
When the prescriptions became harder to get in the 2010s, addicts had to resort to heroin. Now, they have turned to the cheaper choice, fentanyl, instead.
Joseph Friedman, an addiction researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, told the Guardian: ‘Fentanyl took over the illicit opioid market not because the consumers like it, but because the distributors like it. It’s massively profitable.’
He added: ‘California has now surpassed the national average and it’s becoming the single most important place for overdose intervention in terms of sheer numbers.’
Experts said the predicted almost 25 percent increase in deaths from last year is ‘crazy and unfortunate’.
San Francisco has tried a raft of different policies to stop the deaths
They tried increasing police presence and opening a ‘safe injection’ site, which they then closed again
None of them have worked as drug deaths continue to climb
San Francisco has tried a raft of different measures to bring down the number of deaths, from increasing police presence to opening a ‘safe injection’ site which they then closed again.
But none of them have worked.
Dr Daniel Ciccarone, a professor at the University of California, told the Guardian: ‘I had predicted the epidemic would start to burn out. But it is unbelievably resilient and horribly durable.’
And he warned, ‘clearly the city has not done well enough… our policy options are not working.’
And the drug deaths are going hand in hand with a crime wave which has sparked an exodus of businesses and thrown the city into a ‘doom loop’.
A recent report showed 95 retailers in downtown San Francisco have closed since the start of the COVID pandemic, a decline of more than 50 percent from 2019.
Office vacancy rates hit a record high of 34 per cent in September as shops were driven out of the downtown area by heightened crime and economists warn the city is spiraling into an ‘urban doom loop’.
Looting specifically became a huge problem for the city while rampant theft caused the downfall of San Francisco’s main shopping area – Union Square – and forced many major chains and local businesses to permanently shut their doors.
A map reveals the major businesses which have left, or plan to leave, San Francisco in recent months
Of the 620 deaths in 2022, 72 percent were attributed to fentanyl
Starbucks, Whole Foods, IKEA, Nordstrom and the Disney store have all shut some of their San Francisco locations down as a result of the city’s drastic issues with crime.
In October, LinkedIn put up the top five floors of its 63,000 square feet, 26-story building for rental till December 2027 and laid off 668 employees.
A few months prior, Meta announced it was ready to abandon its 435,000 square feet San Francisco building once its lease expired in 2031.
Companies such as Airbnb, Paypal, Slack, Lyft and Salesforce have also left tens of thousands of square footage buildings in the city in the past year.
San Francisco plans to ramp up their police presence this holiday season to crack down on shoplifters – despite defunding the police just two years ago amidst BLM protests.