Record spike in fatal overdoses in King County

Jan 14, 2021, 1:42 PM

Public Health — Seattle & King County says there’s been a spike in fatal overdoses over the past two weeks, recording 42 overdose deaths. This is the highest number ever documented in a two-week period in the county.

The 42 deaths, identified as suspected or confirmed overdose deaths by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office, were recorded in the period from Dec. 27, 2020, to Jan. 9, 2021.

“After an increase in overdose deaths in late spring and summer, overdose deaths declined in the fall,” according to the Public Health Insider blog post. “These last two weeks mark a sharp increase — double the average number of weekly fatal overdoses throughout much of 2020.”

The overdoses were dispersed throughout the county and fall into similar age distributions typically seen with overdoses, with half between the ages of 36-55. The county says 45% of the fatalities were among females, which it adds is higher than usual.

“Preliminary testing from the King County Medical Examiner’s Office suggests that the majority of the deaths likely resulted from poly-drug use,” the blog explains. “As typically seen in recent years, preliminary test results suggest that methamphetamine was involved in 17 of the recent drug overdose deaths and 7 deaths involved fentanyl. The full extent to which specific drug classes contributed to the recent deaths won’t be known until toxicology test results are released by the Washington State Patrol Toxicology Laboratory.”

Public health officials encourage everyone to be aware of the risks of drug use and overdoses. Find where naloxone is available near you here. Do not use alone, the department says, and avoid pills from the street or online. If you suspect an overdose, call 911 right way. The Good Samaritan Law protects the caller and the person overdosing from drug possession charges.

“It is more important than ever to check on those who you think may be struggling, either with stress, anxiety, depression, other behavioral health issues or increase in drug misuse,” said Brad Finegood, Strategic Advisor for Behavioral Health, Public Health – Seattle & King County. “There are many different options available for people who may be considering a path to treatment. Just in the past few months, 80 health providers in our region completed the necessary training to be able to prescribe buprenorphine — the effective medication to treat opioid use disorder and there is treatment available across the county.”

Court ruling could alter Seattle’s reworked plan for safe injection sites

The full effect COVID-19 is having on substance use or misuse is not yet known.

King County Department of Community and Human Services provides referrals for mental health and substance use services if you have Apple Health/Medicaid: Call 206-263-8997 or 1-800-790-8049 to learn more. To seek treatment for drug use disorder to help stop using drugs call the Washington Recovery Hotline for treatment resources at 1-866-789-1511.

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