3 men found dead in Haight-Ashbury, fentanyl overdoses suspected

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SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU/BCN) - Three men were found dead in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury  neighborhood early Thursday morning, a police spokesman said. The Health Department is concerned about the possibility of fentanyl poisoning, and is alerting health care providers and the drug user community about the dangers of fentanyl and how to take precautions.

Officers responded at 4:35 a.m. to a call requesting police to check on three unresponsive people in the 1500 block of Page Street, Officer Robert Rueca said.

They arrived to find the three men still unresponsive. Medics also came to the scene and pronounced the men dead, Rueca said. There were no signs of foul play. 

The men were found outside of the Urban School of San Francisco, a high school located nearby at 1563 Page St. The school is unaffected, Rueca said. The men are not associated with the school, according to school officials.

Rueca said the men were not related and did not reside at the location where officers found them. Their names have not yet been released. The cause of death will not be determined today. 

“People who buy drugs on the street are at risk of purchasing drugs contaminated by fentanyl, which is a very strong opioid, much more potent than heroin,” said Dr. Tomas Aragon, San Francisco Health Officer. “It is essential for their safety to carry naloxone in case of overdose. It is a matter of life and death.”

The health department issued a statement and even held a news conference Thursday saying that fentanyl is an extremely potent, short-acting opioid that can cause overdose and death and is often used to cut other drugs. According to DPH, the drug has been increasingly present in San Francisco street drugs including; methamphetamine, cocaine, benzodiazepins (including Xanax), prescription opioid and heroin. 

"Consumers may be unaware that they have purchased fentanyl, which puts them in danger of overdose or death, since the dosing levels are significantly different," the statement reads. 

The health department says San Francisco’s syringe access sites provide fentanyl test strips so that people can check the content of their drugs before consuming. 

The use of naloxone (narcane) has been key in responding to overdoses and part of the city's harm-reduction strategy, according to DPH. 

In 2016, there were 883 overdose reversals in the community, according to the department. 

One person died from fentanyl poisoning after ingesting counterfeit Xanax pills in Oct. 2015 and another died after ingesting crack cocaine laced with fentanyl in May 2017.

“If you buy a drug on the street you have no idea what is in it, and what could be in it is fentanyl, and it could kill you. That is the bottom line," said Dr. Aragon. 

Information from San Francisco Department of Public Health 

Naloxone is covered by Medi-Cal, Healthy San Francisco, and most health plans. It can be furnished by pharmacists registered to do so without a prescription.  Naloxone can be obtained from the CBHS Pharmacy at 1380 Howard on walk-in basis with no prescription required, Monday-Friday 9:30am-4pm. Naloxone is also available at no cost from the DOPE (Drug Overdose Prevention and Education) Project, at syringe access sites and other community-based programs.