A Survivor’s Perspective on San Francisco’s Drug Crisis


Good morning.

Whereas reporting a latest article on the drug overdose crisis in San Francisco, I referred to as Thomas Wolf, one of many loudest critics of the town’s insurance policies, to run previous him what I used to be listening to from professors and different specialists who’ve spent their lives finding out drug use.

“Forgive me for saying this,” Mr. Wolf politely advised me, “however these individuals who you stated you talked to — the specialists — they’ve by no means shot dope, man. They by no means caught a needle of their neck. They by no means spent an evening on the road.”

Mr. Wolf has achieved all of these issues, which makes him one of the poignant voices within the debate over what San Francisco ought to do to handle an epidemic that claimed 713 lives final 12 months, greater than twice as many as died from the coronavirus within the metropolis in 2020.

I took in Mr. Wolf’s major message: that the rampant availability of medication in San Francisco, particularly the fast-acting and fairly often lethal opioid fentanyl, makes it very troublesome for customers to efficiently search therapy and get well.

“What I’m pushing for is an urgency for the town to develop and promote drug therapy for folks,” he stated. “It’s not sufficient to only hand out clear needles. We have to take it a step additional and get you off the road.”

When Mr. Wolf and I walked by way of the Tenderloin final week, we stopped on the doorway the place, for a couple of months in 2018, he used to sleep on a bit of cardboard. He spoke of the depths that he sank to as an addict. When he was nonetheless residing at residence, he would drive to the Tenderloin within the household minivan together with his youngsters within the again seats. To pay for his behavior, he liquidated his life financial savings and stole razor blades from Goal to fence on the streets. He labored as a mule for Honduran sellers, carrying their medication in health club socks.

“You may research homelessness and dependancy in a guide all day lengthy,” Mr. Wolf advised me. “However till you’ve skilled the ability of dependancy and the belongings you thought you’ll by no means resort to, you don’t actually perceive.”

Mr. Wolf, whose mom immigrated from Mexico, spoke to the sellers in Spanish and helped them wire cash to their households in Honduras. They confirmed him footage of the properties they have been constructing with their drug earnings. Mr. Wolf famous the flamboyant furnishings and the brand new vehicles within the driveways.

Eight of the folks Mr. Wolf met when he was on the streets at the moment are useless from overdoses.

Mr. Wolf was arrested 5 instances between April and June 2018 for drug possession. The sixth time, he was jailed and charged with violating a stay-away order and intent to promote medication. In jail, he was given remedy to assist relieve his withdrawal signs. He was bailed out by his brother on the situation that he enter rehab. He’s now again together with his household.

A lifelong Democrat, Mr. Wolf says he shares the objectives of hurt discount in San Francisco. However he argues that a few of the packages that the town funds, like handing out foil and straws to fentanyl customers, cross the road into enabling drug use.

Town’s nonjudgmental method to drug use is hurting the folks it’s meant to assist, he says.

“The Tenderloin has at all times been the drug customers’ and sellers’ epicenter in San Francisco,” Mr. Wolf stated. “However in recent times, you’ve created the surroundings of quick access to medication 24/7.”

“It’s practically inconceivable to get clear and it’s inconceivable to remain clear,” he stated.

Compiled by Manny Fernandez

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