San Francisco Again Facing Very Bad Drug Crisis

There is currently a drug crisis happening in San Francisco. Last year, the number of overdose deaths reached a new record high, surpassing 800. Drug use in public is common in certain neighborhoods.

How did San Francisco reach this point? The story is partly about how the use of fentanyl, a man-made opioid, increased and caused more addiction and overdose deaths during the pandemic.

However, San Francisco’s drug crisis is worse than the rest of the country’s. In 2014, the number of deaths from drug overdoses in the city was about the same as the average number of deaths from drug overdoses across the country. Last year, San Francisco had a rate of overdose deaths that was more than double the national average. It ranked as the fourth highest county for overdose deaths among U.S. counties with a population of over 500,000. The overdose crisis in the country got worse in the past decade due to the spread of fentanyl. However, San Francisco’s crisis got worse at a much faster rate.

According to some experts, local policy changes are partially responsible for the situation. In 2014, the people of California voted for Prop 47, which made it so that having drugs was considered a less serious crime, called a misdemeanor, instead of a more serious crime, called a felony. The change has been understood in different ways in different parts of the state. In San Francisco, the police have reduced their efforts to combat drugs, focusing less on putting people in jail and essentially tolerating public drug use.

California’s Prop 47 did not completely remove criminal penalties for drug possession. Instead, it reduced the offense from a felony to a misdemeanor. However, the police do not stop or get involved with drug users, even if they use drugs in public. Additionally, prosecutors hardly ever press charges for drug possession or use.

In mid-2022, a new district attorney took office and the city began to arrest more drug dealers and some people who use drugs. However, drug users are still not concerned about getting arrested, and it is still common to see people using drugs in public. Many residents often feel the need to monitor drug users on sidewalks. “That’s how I discovered my first deceased person,” shared Adam Mesnick, the owner of a deli in the South of Market neighborhood.

Mayor London Breed has attempted to balance her attention between public health and law enforcement, while also recognizing the worsening situation. “We want to help people, but we can’t let drug dealing and public drug use keep happening,” her office said in a statement.

Also Read: This Washington City Has Been Named the Drug Trafficking Capital of the State

Both San Francisco, California and the federal government provide funding for addiction treatment. The system is not unified. Some providers offer medications to treat opioid addiction, while others believe that using medications is just replacing one drug with another. Some treatments are either free or covered by insurance, while other services may cost patients thousands of dollars or more. Patients often have difficulty finding a treatment that is effective for them and also affordable.

San Francisco also struggles to encourage people to seek treatment. Sometimes, instead of going to jail or prison, the city gives drug users the choice to receive treatment. However, this option is only available if an addict is charged with more serious crimes, such as robbery, that result in jail or prison sentences. Using drugs by itself is not sufficient.

The city started a program last year that provides treatment for people who have been charged with drug use or sales. However, if the users choose not to receive treatment, they are usually still allowed to leave. Between May 30 and January 4, only 25 individuals agreed to receive treatment following an arrest. This occurred in a city where tens of thousands of people regularly use drugs.

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