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Overdose deaths in Washington jumped 66% from 2019 to 2021

Congress Synthetic Opioids
U.S. Attorneys Office for Utah
FILE - This undated file photo provided by the U.S. Attorneys Office for Utah and introduced as evidence at a trial shows fentanyl-laced fake oxycodone pills collected during an investigation. (U.S. Attorneys Office for Utah via AP, File)

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — New data shows the number of people dying from drug overdoses in Washington state continues to rise, according to state health officials.

Drug-related overdose deaths in the state topped 2,000 in 2021, a more than 66% increase compared to 2019, the Washington Department of Health said in a news release Tuesday. More than half of the overdose deaths are because of fentanyl, and fentanyl overdose deaths have increased about 10-fold since 2016, officials said.

“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.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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.

People should consider carrying at least two doses of naloxone to help prevent deaths from opioid overdose, Kwan-Gett. Everyone in Washington can have a naloxone prescription filled at a pharmacy by using a standing order, officials said.

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