in San Francisco, the secrets of a fentanyl “survivor”

Tom Wolfe, a resident of San Francisco, managed to get out of an addiction to fentanyl, this powerful opioid which is wreaking havoc in the United States. He testifies on franceinfo.


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A homeless man, victim of fentanyl addiction, on the streets of San Francisco, California, in 2024. (TAYFUN COSKUN / ANADOLU via AFP)

It is one of the leading causes of death in the United States: fentanyl, this very powerful synthetic opioid imported from China and Mexico, which caused nearly 75,000 deaths last year in America. This scourge particularly affects San Francisco, California. Franceinfo went to the Tenderloin neighborhood to meet one of the fentanyl “survivors”.

Tom Wolfe fell into drugs after a foot operation in 2015 for which he was prescribed painkillers. He is unable to live without it and his wife ends up throwing him out three years later. “I became homeless on the streets of San Francisco in 2018. That’s why I brought you to this neighborhood, because I used to sleep in this doorway right here, he remembers. I became homeless due to an addiction to opioids, heroin, and then fentanyl.”

He stays on the street for six months and becomes a mule. He then transports drugs for the neighborhood dealers. “I started getting arrested for having these drugs on me. It wasn’t until the sixth arrest that they decided to keep me in detention for three months. That’s when- where I got sober”, he says.

“I was given medication in prison to help me cope with withdrawal from heroin and fentanyl.”

Tom Wolfe, a fentanyl “survivor”

at franceinfo

Tom now works as a consultant for the Salvation Army’s transitional housing program. There are between 8,000 and 20,000 homeless people in San Francisco. Nearly 90% of them are drug addicts, mainly in this Tenderloin neighborhood, right in the center of the city, where Tom has seen at least 15 people die of overdoses in recent years. The fentanyl pill is much cheaper than heroin, $5 compared to $30 in 2018, and much more powerful.

“There is no more heroin here, there is only fentanyl and the quantity of drugs has increased tenfold in these cities. So today, when you stop the dealers on the street, they have “A kilo of fentanyl on them. One guy had four kilos of it in his backpack when they arrested him. Before, when someone was arrested, he had maybe 50 grams of heroin on him.” he assures.

“Fentanyl is 10 to 50 times more powerful than heroin and 100 times more powerful than morphine. That’s why people take it.”

Tom Wolfe, a fentanyl “survivor”

at franceinfo

The state’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, deployed California Highway Patrol officers to the city. These reinforcements made it possible to seize nearly 10 million doses of fentanyl in one year.

source site-29