Santa Clara County Coroner: Fentanyl overdoses nearly double in one year

(DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images)

The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner on Friday issued startling and somber statistics regarding a deadly drug that is killing a growing number of people around the country. 

There were 53 deaths due to fentanyl overdoses this year, compared to a total of 29 fentanyl-related fatalities in 2019, the coroner said, adding that the number of deaths is expected to rise in the last month and a half of the year.

The drug knows no age limits. 

Confirmed fentanyl overdoses this year have happened in youth as young as 16 years old and adults as old as 60, the coroner's office said.

“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,” said Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner, Dr. Michelle Jorden. “Fentanyl can be found in fake pills, powders, and other drugs. Even one pill, a fragment of a pill or one snort can be fatal.”

Fentanyl is a very powerful opioid drug— up to 100 times more powerful than morphine—and exposure to even small amounts can cause overdose and death. Fentanyl can kill in a matter of minutes, the coroner stress.

Opioids are the most addictive drugs and have the highest risk of overdose. Illegal drugs or prescription drugs obtained illegally have the highest risk because you cannot be sure what is in it or how strong it is.

The coroner stressed that many opioid pills are made by counterfeiting organizations and most pills on the street are fake.

Fake pills are made to look like real prescription medications and come in different types, shapes and colors. Many of the fake oxycodone pills are blue, circular tablets marked with a letter “M” inside a square on one side, and the number “30” on the other. Fentanyl is also available in powder form which is as dangerous and deadly, the coroner said.

Jordan stressed that people should not take any pill that they did not get directly from a pharmacy, which includes gettiing pills from friends. She also said that people should not use drugs alone - most overdose deaths happen when there is no one there to get help. 

If someone cannot be woken up, or is snoring or breathing irregularly after taking unknown pills or powder, Jordan urged friends to call 911 immediately. In addition, Narcan (Naloxone) can reverse an overdose and be lifesaving.

Free Narcan training and kits can be obtained from the following:

  • Santa Clara County Opioid Overdose Prevention Project (
  • Central Valley Clinic, 2425 Enborg Lane, San Jose, 408-885-5400, Monday to Sunday, 1-2pm
  • Alexian Health Clinic, 2101 Alexian Drive, Suite B, San Jose, 408-272-6073, Monday to Sunday, 1-2pm
  • South County Clinic, 90 Highland Avenue, Building J, San Martin, 408-272-6073, Monday to Sunday, 1-2pm
  • Appointments for other times Monday to Friday can be made by calling the phone numbers listed above.
  • County of Santa Clara Public Health Department (
  • The Crane Center, 976 Lenzen Avenue, San Jose, 408-482-9707. Free fentanyl test strips are also available
  • The County of Santa Clara Behavioral Health Department offers services for those who are struggling with substance use issues, which can be exacerbated by other stressors, including the holidays and the novel Coronavirus pandemic. The Behavioral Health Services Department offers the following help:
  • Substance use treatment services/Gateway: 1-800-488-9919
  • Mental Health Services: 1-800-704-0900
  • Youth and Young Adult Substance Use Treatment Services: 408-272-6518(Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 
  • For more information on substance use treatment services for adults, visit services for youth, visit