King County seeing record number of fentanyl deaths this year

More than 200 people have died in King County so far this year due to fentanyl, which is already a 26% increase from last year’s record numbers.

It is a tragedy impacting so many people in our area.

UW Medicine reports 2021 has already seen 217 confirmed fentanyl overdoses, and there are still four months left. This number is already far surpassing last year’s record-setting number of 172 death.

"It just seemed so much safer than heroin, I wasn’t injecting, and it seemed somewhat benign," said Shane O’Brien.

At 13, O’Brien says a doctor prescribed him opioids for an injury. O’Brien says this situation is what introduced him to abusing drugs.

"I knew I liked pills. That, resulted in me trying different types of opioid pain medicines," he said.

Experts say, unfortunately, this situation is all too common.

"’I wouldn’t touch heroin I wouldn’t touch a needle,’  but they’ll be at a party where there is a fentanyl pill being passed around and it seems harmless because they are smoking it without realizing it’s up to 100 times stronger than heroin," said Benjamin Rae.

Rae is the director of provider relations at Ideal Option, a nationwide outpatient opioid clinic.

He says fentanyl spreads through the community so easily, and that is why education is so important.

"Addiction might be viewed as a character flaw, as a moral failing, addiction is not. Addiction is a disease that can be treated," he said.

Addiction researchers with UW Medicine say the probability of illegally bought pills containing fentanyl is as high as 99%,  and there is no way of knowing for certain what you’re taking.

For more information on fentanyl research, click here.

For more information on Ideal Option, click here.

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