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King County issues counterfeit pill warning amid deadly fentanyl overdoses

King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht shows a picture of a common fentanyl-laced pill that's been found across King County (Aaron Granillo, KIRO Radio)

The recent deaths of two Sammamish teenagers highlight an alarming trend across King County, as public health and law enforcement officials report a growing number of fentanyl-related overdose deaths.

Public Health Seattle and King County reported at least 63 deaths in 2019 so far linked to fentanyl. That’s compared to 23 deaths in 2016.

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Just in the past few days, the county investigated at least five suspected overdose deaths, including the case of a 16-year old Skyline High School boy. Another 16-year-old student at the school died in August. Health officials believe they both consumed fentanyl-laced pills.

“We believe both teens likely ingested what they thought were legitimate oxycodone tablets,” said Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht during a news conference Tuesday.

Seven teenagers have died of fentanyl-related overdoses in King County this year. That’s compared to one in 2018 and one in 2017.

Public health official said the fentanyl cases are fueling the recent spike in overdose deaths across the county. Between mid-June and September there were 141 drug overdose deaths, compared to 109 overdose deaths over the same period in 2018, according to Seattle & King County Public Health.

The Issaquah School District issued a statement about the recent Skyline deaths, saying in part: “Our hearts ache for our students and school communities that have been and continue to be impacted by the devastating effects of opiates. Not only are we passionate about the educational success of our students, but we care deeply for their health and well-being.”

Johanknecht said fentanyl has shown up in King County in both pill and powder form. The most common counterfeit pills are blue-colored and stamped with “M30,” made to look like oxycodone. Other tablets are white or green.

“The vast majority of oxycodone pills purchased on the street in King County and elsewhere are likely counterfeit and likely contain deadly amounts of fentanyl,” Johanknecht said.

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