Fentanyl deaths up in Kitsap County

The Kitsap Public Health District says there is a rise in drug overdose deaths in Kitsap County and statewide involving the potent opioid drug fentanyl.

Fourteen deaths were linked to fentanyl in 2020, compared with eight in the previous three years combined. Statistics from the Kitsap County Coroner’s Office suggest fentanyl-related deaths remain elevated in 2021, with 12 deaths reported to date. Deaths linked to fentanyl doubled from 2019 to 2020.

“Fentanyl is in Kitsap County,” Coroner Jeff Wallis warned. “Please do not take any pills that were not obtained from a legitimate pharmacy with a prescription.”

As for all opioids, according to preliminary data from the state Department of Health, there were 31 overdose deaths in the county in 2020, the highest total ever. That’s 11 more than in 2018 and almost twice as many as the 16 who died in 2013.

Statewide, overall drug overdose deaths and deaths involving opioid drugs also increased substantially in 2020.

“While we can’t say for certain what is driving this trend, we know that substance use and mental health are deeply entwined, and the COVID-19 pandemic has put added strain on all of us,” health officer Dr. Gib Morrow said. “I am asking Kitsap residents to set aside judgment, be vigilant, learn the signs of overdose and be ready to help if needed. Quick action can save lives.”

The KPHD says fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than other opioids, such as morphine. Even a tiny dose can be lethal. It is often mixed with other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine.

Signs of opioid overdoses include: inability to wake up, slow or no breathing, and blue, gray or ashy skin, lips or fingernails. Naloxone, also called Narcan, can reverse the effects. Anyone can get it at a pharmacy without a prescription.

If someonee is overdosing, call 9-1-1, administer Naloxone, perform rescue breaths and stay until help arrives. Under the Good Samaritan Overdose law neither the victim or person assisting will be prosecuted for drug possession. For more call the state Recovery Hotline at 1-866-789-1511.