Aug 17, 2023 - Health

How addiction affects people's lives in San Francisco

Reproduced from KFF; Chart: Axios Visuals

As San Francisco continues to struggle with its drug crisis, new polling from KFF shows addiction is affecting family relationships, mental health and finances for most adults in the U.S.

Driving the news: The health tracking poll — conducted in mid-July — found 66% of American adults have a personal or familial experience with alcohol or drug addiction.

By the numbers: More than a quarter (27%) of the 846 respondents who have had a relative with an alcohol or drug addiction, but have not experienced addiction themselves, say their mental health was significantly altered as a result.

  • That includes homelessness due to addiction or a drug overdose that resulted in an emergency room visit, hospitalization or death.
  • 51% of adults are also worried that someone in their family will experience substance use disorder or addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Zoom in: The San Francisco chief medical examiner's office has recorded 473 overdose deaths so far in 2023 — including 71 in July alone, 62 of which were attributed to fentanyl.

  • "It pains me to share that [the 2023 figure] is the highest overdose deaths San Francisco has experienced, and it correlates to this overtaking of fentanyl in our drug supply," Grant Colfax, San Francisco's director of health, said at a press conference this week.

The big picture: Earlier this year, Gov. Gavin Newsom deployed state law enforcement officers to San Francisco in a bid to crack down on fentanyl trafficking.

  • The multi-agency operation has led to increased drug arrests, but health officials have cautioned that arrests could set off more overdose deaths.
  • Forcing people into treatment — as is expected under Newsom's CARE courts directive — could also see mixed results, according to the city's behavioral health director Hillary Kunins.
  • "There are particular moments where it could be appropriate, but what we do know is that when we compel people into care without fully engaging them, the risk of overdose paradoxically goes up," she said at Tuesday's press conference. "Their tolerance goes down and a relapse can be deadly."

What to watch: California Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) has introduced a bill to bolster specialized personnel for mental health and addiction emergencies at general facilities.


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