Santa Clara County

South Bay fentanyl overdose deaths spike; Tranq adds fuel to crisis

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Despite a major push to address the crisis, fentanyl use and overdose deaths continue to spike in the South Bay.

A report from Santa Clara Valley Medical Center shows deadly fentanyl-related overdoses more than doubled from April to May this year. And now a new drug that's often found with fentanyl is making the crisis even harder to fight.

"These drugs now are killing people at an alarming rate," CHAM Pastor Scott Wagers said. "They’re very low level kind of drugs, street drugs, and they’re combinations of fentanyl, methamphetamines, tranq, new stuff coming out. I think some people don’t have any idea what’s in them."

The Backpack Homeless Healthcare unit out of Santa Clara Valley Medical Center agrees. The unit, which goes out to encampments, says fentanyl is the primary problem. That's why it distributes Nalaxone, known as Narcan, to try to prevent overdoses.

But the group says a new drug called tranq is adding fuel to the fire. Tranq is a street name for the powerful animal tranquilizer drug Xylazine, a drug that doesn't respond to Narcan.

"Tranq, for folks who are experiencing overdose and the respiratory depression that goes along with that, tranq complicates that and can increase the sedation and will not be reversible with Nalaxone," Backpack Homeless Healthcare Director Dr. Sara Jeevanjee said.

South Bay Assemblyman Evan Low said the state has been battling to find effective solutions to the problem.

"The public safety component may be overly simplistic, which is just to incarcerate and put individuals in incarceration while also getting the help," Low said. "But we know that does not work and we see a revolving door."

Low said he wants to see more partnership with the state and county to focus on more programs for public health and resolving addiction.

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