UW survey finds ‘stunning’ surge in fentanyl use, leads state in overdoses

SPOKANE, Wash. — The use of fentanyl has surged recently in Washington, being the drug most involved in overdoses in the state.

A survey done by the University of Washington found that of nearly 1,000 people who use syringe-service program sites across the state, 42-percent of them had used fentanyl in the previous three months. That’s up from 18-percent in 2019.

“I’ve been doing drug-trends research for 20 years, and fentanyl’s growth is the biggest, fastest shift we’ve ever seen—and also the most lethal,” said Caleb Banta-Green, a principal research scientist at the Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute in the UW School of Medicine.

Eighty-three of the people who took the survey were from Spokane County. Results show two-thirds of users said they had used fentanyl knowingly, whereas compared to several years ago most fentanyl use was unintentional.

Illegally made fentanyl is often counterfeited to resemble oxycodone pills. It is fast-acting and dangerously potent: 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. In 2020, fentanyl overtook methamphetamine as the drug most involved in overdoses in Washington state.

If you or somebody you know is struggling with addiction, there is help. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration has a national helpline that’s free and confidential. That number is 1-800-622-4357.

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