According to data from the King County overdose deaths dashboard, Washington’s most populous county may have set a state record with 1,010 overdose deaths in 2023, surpassing the 1,001 deaths recorded in all of 2022.
A significant majority of these tragic deaths were attributed to Fentanyl. Overdose fatalities related to Fentanyl have seen a troubling increase over the past few years. In 2019, there were 109 deadly fentanyl overdoses, which surged to 168 in 2020, and a staggering 385 in 2021, according to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.
As reported by KOMO News, an alarming statistic reveals that approximately four people succumb to drug overdoses every day in the Seattle area.
From January to the end of July, EMS crews responded to 4,868 overdoses across the county, significantly exceeding the 2,947 incidents during the same period in the previous year.
Earlier this year, the Washington State Legislature convened a special session to pass a new law that criminalizes drug possession while creating new avenues for substance abuse treatment.
However, Seattle, the largest city in the state and county, chose not to follow suit. In June, the Seattle City Council rejected legislation that would have empowered the City Attorney to prosecute drug possession and public drug use, effectively decriminalizing these offenses.
A more recent effort by the council resulted in a watered-down version of the legislation being passed.
The Seattle Times reported earlier this year that “Washington state now has the fastest-rising drug deaths in the nation.” In January, it was revealed that due to the record number of fentanyl overdose deaths in the county, the medical examiner was running out of places to store the deceased.
The severity of overdoses prompted the Washington State Health Care Authority to launch a campaign encouraging teenagers to carry Naloxone, a drug used to counteract an overdose. Unfortunately, despite distributing over 10,000 naloxone kits and roughly 100,000 fentanyl test strips in 2022, the number of overdoses and overdose deaths continued to rise.
Even with significant financial investments in services and “harm reduction” initiatives for addicts in Seattle and King County, the issue has shown no signs of abating. A recent study revealed that meth was found in 100 percent of air samples on the county’s buses and trains, with 98 percent of surface samples also testing positive. Additionally, fentanyl was present in a quarter of the air samples and nearly half of the surface samples.