King County seeing increasing ‘white powder’ fentanyl

Dec 30, 2022, 5:52 PM
Used needles are seen on the street during a city sweep of a homeless encampment. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
(Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

Ahead of what is traditionally one of the biggest party weekends of the year, Seattle-King County Public Health is issuing a warning about an alarming trend.

Fentanyl, a dangerous and powerful synthetic opioid, is coming in new forms that resemble other drugs.

“In addition to coming in counterfeit pills, we’re seeing fentanyl starting to come in the form of white powder,” said Brad Finegood, a strategic advisor at Seattle-King County Public Health. “So it’s not actually cocaine, but it often looks like cocaine and can be mistaken as cocaine.”

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In actuality, fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl played a role in the majority of the county’s overdose deaths this year. Nearly a quarter of overdoses involving a fentanyl-like substance were linked to powders, according to the county’s 2022 overdose report.

“If people use it thinking that they’re using cocaine, they might actually be using a very different drug in fentanyl, have no tolerance for it, and have a really bad, adverse outcome,” Finegood said.

Possession of cocaine is illegal in Washington state, but if you are still planning to use it on New Year’s Eve — or at any other time — Finegood urges you to test what you ingest.

“Test the drug using a fentanyl test strip to see if there is fentanyl in your drug,” Finegood recommended. “And make sure that you have naloxone on-hand, which is a lifesaving overdose reversal medication.”

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You can get test strips and naloxone for free from harm reduction centers and health departments, including Seattle-King County Public Health. Locate naloxone near you at this link.

Finegood also recommends that not everyone in a group take drugs at the same time, so that someone can stay sober and watch out for the others. If you are at a party and someone appears to fall into a deep sleep after using a drug, call 911 immediately, as this could be an overdose.

Follow Nicole Jennings on Twitter or email her here

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King County seeing increasing ‘white powder’ fentanyl