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Whatcom Gang and Drug Task Force issue warning regarding spike in fentanyl-related overdose deaths

WHATCOM COUNTY, Wash. — Officials with the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) and the Whatcom Gang and Drug Task Force (WGDTF) issued the follow press release warning the community of a spike seen in fentanyl-related drug overdose deaths in the last 2 weeks.

During the first quarter of 2021, the Whatcom Gang and Drug Task Force (WGDTF) has confirmed a disturbing trend in fentanyl related overdose deaths in the City of Bellingham and Whatcom County, as well as the presence of very dangerous Carfentanyl in some of the victims.  In the last two weeks there have been a total of 5 fentanyl related overdose deaths in Whatcom County.  Three adults, two males ages 60 and 48 and one female, age 43, died in Bellingham and two adult males ages 29 and 42 died in Whatcom County as a result of accidental overdoses involving fentanyl. 

These five deaths are indicative of the danger each dose presents to even chronic drug abusers.  On the street, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid usually found in powder or pill form and can be added or substituted, with or without the user’s knowledge, as the active ingredients in counterfeit Oxycodone, Percocet or Xanax pills. While previously seen this way in Whatcom County, now it is being found in powder form which is reported to mimic, or be sold as, methamphetamine or “China White” heroin.  The highly potent Carfentanyl has been detected in some of our recent overdose victims.  Fentanyl is 80-100 times more potent than morphine.  Carfentanyl is 100 times more potent than fentanyl.  A single dose the size of a pin head can be lethal.  According to WGDTF Commander, Chief Deputy Kevin Hester, “Illicit drug users may have no idea what is actually in the drugs they use, or the potency, until it’s too late.

The WGDTF and the Whatcom County Medical Examiner’s Office reported the following trends in accidental fentanyl related deaths over the course of the last few years:

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2018:  First recognized cases of fentanyl pills known as “M30’s” found on an arrestee in Whatcom County
2019:  Four (4) fentanyl related overdose deaths
2020: Twenty-three (23) fentanyl related overdose deaths
2021: (1st Quarter Jan-Mar) Eleven (11) fentanyl related overdose deaths.  Carfentanyl detected in some overdose victims.

The Drug Task Force, the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, the Bellingham Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have actively investigated many of these overdose deaths in an attempt to track down the providers of the counterfeit drugs or fentanyl.  In those cases, charges have been brought against multiple suspects for Controlled Substance Homicide or Manslaughter.  Law Enforcement agencies in Whatcom County will continue to actively pursue these cases in an attempt to prevent more needless deaths.

The WGDTF and the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office urge people to take precautions and become knowlegible about the dangers this drug poses.  Parents should talk with their children in regards to taking illicit drugs or prescription pills that are bought on the street or given to them by others.  Prescription pills should only be taken from a licensed pharmacy with a valid prescription.  If you suspect someone has overdosed, immediately call 9-1-1 and advise them it is a suspected overdose.  If available, administer Narcan or start life-saving efforts until medical help arrives.

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