Fentanyl deaths in Santa Clara County have nearly doubled this year compared to 2019, the county medical examiner-coroner's office said Friday.
The medical examiner has confirmed 53 fentanyl overdose deaths in 2020, up from the 29 such deaths the office confirmed last year. County officials also expect additional fentanyl-related deaths before the year ends.
According to Medical Examiner-Coroner Dr. Michelle Jordan, fentanyl overdoses have been confirmed in residents as young as 16 and as old as 60 years old.
"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," Jordan said.
Fentanyl is a highly addictive opioid and can be up to 100 times more potent than morphine. It's often found in fake pills or mixed with other drugs.
The medical examiner's office encourages residents to call 911 if someone cannot be woken up or is breathing irregularly after ingesting pills or powder of unknown origin.
Drugs like Narcan can be lifesaving in such situations, said Bruce Copley, the director of the county's Substance Use Services Division within the Department of Behavioral Health Services.
"Fentanyl is a very powerful opioid drug and can kill in a matter of minutes," Copley said. "The risk of death increases if a person takes these drugs alone."
Residents can obtain free training in administering Narcan at the Santa Clara County Overdose Prevention Project's Central Valley clinic at 2425 Enborg Lane in San Jose; Alexian Health clinic at 2101 Alexian Drive, Suite B, in San Jose; and South County clinic at 90 Highland Ave., Building J, in San Martin.
Residents can also receive fentanyl test strips from the county for free.
Information on the county's Substance Use Services Division and substance use treatment options can be found here.