Seattle and the surrounding area recorded the highest number of fentanyl-related overdose deaths on record in 2023, data show.
King County, which encompasses Seattle, recorded the most fentanyl-related deaths ever in 2023, at 1,078 fatal overdoses. In all, the county recorded 1,318 deaths due to opioid and drug overdoses last year, meaning fentanyl was involved in more than 80% of overdose deaths last year.
So far this year, the county has recorded 58 fatal overdoses in January. As of Feb. 6, there have been a total of 78 confirmed overdoses related to opioids or alcohol poisoning, Seattle and King County’s fatal overdose dashboard shows.
The database shows there are an additional 30 deaths this year that are suspected overdoses but still under investigation.
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Last year, there was about a 870% increase in fentanyl-related deaths compared to pre-pandemic deaths in 2019. There were 111 fentanyl related deaths in 2019, which rose to 168 in 2020, 385 in 2021, 714 in 2022 and 1,078 last year, the database shows.
“With regards to the increase in fatal overdoses, with synthetic fentanyl, the drug supply has become much more lethal, more available, and much less expensive. Public Health has been taking a comprehensive approach to addressing the crisis. This includes increasing access points for low-barrier treatment for substance use disorder and expanding access to overdose reversal medications,” a spokesperson for Seattle & King County’s Public Health told Fox News Digital Tuesday.
Overdose deaths have dramatically affected the city’s large homeless population. Last year was the deadliest year for those living on the streets of King County, with 421 people presumed homeless dying last year, a county data dashboard shows. Of those deaths, 312 were due to drugs and alcohol poisoning.
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The King County director of public health for Seattle warned last year officials were running out of space to store bodies.
“The Medical Examiner’s Office is now struggling with the issue of storing bodies because the fentanyl-related death toll continues to climb. Obviously, they have finite space in the coolers they use, and that space is now being exceeded on a regular basis,” Dr. Faisal Khan, the director of public health for Seattle and King County, said during a King County Board of Health meeting last year.
“The rise in fentanyl nationally and locally over the past few years has led to a much more dangerous drug supply,” said Khan. “Fentanyl has increased the risk of overdose and death, even from taking one pill or using a small amount of powder. It is now involved in 70% of King County overdose deaths, as of December 2022.”
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A public health official told local media at the time that temporary morgues could be used if morgues run out of space.
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“We have options for temporary morgue surge capacity when our census count gets high, including storing decedents on autopsy gurneys and partnerships with funeral homes. We’re exploring longer-term options for adding more capacity,” the public health spokesperson said.
Using drugs openly on the streets of Seattle has become a common sight in the city in recent years. The Seattle City Council voted in September to approve an ordinance making the use or possession of illicit drugs a gross misdemeanor to help curb the issue.
Source: Fox News