DOH report: Overdose deaths in Washington surpass 2,000 in 2021, continue to rise

The Washington State Department of Health released a new report saying that deadly drug-related overdoses rose more than 66% from 2019 to 2021 in the state. 

According to the latest available data, drug-related overdose deaths surpassed 2,000 in 2021. That number is likely higher as these deaths are historically underreported, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.  

"Overdose deaths are a public health emergency, and fentanyl is a major driver," Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, MD, MPH, Chief Science Officer, said. "What looks like a prescription oxycodone pill could be a counterfeit with more than enough fentanyl to kill. People who use drugs should assume that any drugs bought on the street, online, or from a friend has fentanyl."

Overdose-related deaths are trending upward across the country as well.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last year reported that for the first time, more than 100,000 Americans had died of drug overdoses over a 12-month period. About two-thirds of the deaths were linked to fentanyl and other synthetic drugs, which can be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, heroin or prescription opioids.

Drug overdoses now surpass deaths from car crashes, guns and even flu and pneumonia. The total is close to that for diabetes, the nation's No. 7 cause of death, according to the CDC. 

For those who use drugs and want to stop or cut back, help is available. Buprenorphine and methadone, two medications that treat opioid use disorder (MOUD), can cut the risk of a fatal opioid overdose in half and reduce cravings and withdrawal. If you or someone you know wants treatment or just wants to learn more, see the Washington Recovery Helpline MOUD Locator, or call 1-866-789-1511.

You can also learn where to find Naloxone (Narcan) here. 

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