October 9, 2022

Fentanyl Overdose: Street vs Surgery (and San Francisco Opioid Crisis)

Fentanyl is one of the most widely used and abused medications, causing overdose both on the streets and in the operating room. It is a synthetic opioid that has become very cheap in recent years and has spilled on the streets of San Francisco and the rest of the United States, well outside of the operating room where I use it safely every day in surgery for anesthesia.

I practice anesthesia and integrative medicine in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the opioid epidemic has caused countless deaths from overdose, over 150 per month. Fentanyl has caused a plurality of these overdoses and deaths, particularly in San Francisco. It breaks my heart to see how tragic an effect such a powerful medication has in the wrong hands without the proper training.

The problem has become so severe that my patients often get anxious and scared before surgery when they hear that I will be giving them fentanyl for their anesthesia. This extra anxiety and fear can cause complications in the operating room and in recovery after surgery.

I want to reduce the anxiety and fears that my patients have before surgery, because mental health is so important to our wellbeing and physical health inside and outside the operating room. That's why we will discuss the dose of fentanyl used in surgery versus the dose used on the street, what it actually does to your body, and ultimately why it is safe and necessary to use in the operating room, but so dangerous on the streets.

We will also discuss the steps San Francisco has taken to reduce the opioid overdose crisis from fentanyl under District Attorney Brooke Jenkins. Overcoming the opioid epidemic, particularly in San Francisco, is a complicated problem. The solution will heavily rely on all of us being accountable to each other as much as we are accountable to ourselves. We have more power to control our health than we have ever been told, and with that accountability and responsibility for our health is great hope for saving lives and living safer.

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