A regional drug enforcement agency is warning the community about a “hot batch” of fentanyl products circulating locally.
Skagit County Interlocal Drug Enforcement Unit reported that Emergency Medical Services in Skagit County responded to 18 suspected fentanyl overdoses, including three deaths, since Jan. 20. Officials believe that especially potent fentanyl is causing the overdoses.
Island County Sheriff Rick Felici said drug-related trends in Skagit County tend to quickly spread to Whidbey Island, so he’s concerned that the community will face the same problems and potential tragedies.
Felici and Oak Harbor Police Chief Tony Slowik both agree that the popularity of fentanyl, which is now the prominent illicit drug in the area, has made the opioid crisis even more serious. Many residents don’t realize the seriousness of the drug plague, according to the sheriff.
Felici said he expects that powder fentanyl is already being sold and used on the island and that it will only become more common. The powder version of the powerful opioid, which usually comes in counterfeit blue pills made in Mexico, is now prevalent in Skagit County. The sheriff said the version of the drug is more dangerous since dosing is unpredictable and it can easily become aerosolized, which puts deputies and first responders at greater danger of exposure.
“In the next couple of months, we will see an increase in powder fentanyl, I guarantee it,” the sheriff said.
In addition, Felici points out that other illicit drugs are commonly laced with fentanyl.
The statistic on fentanyl seizures in Skagit County tell a frightening story that likely represents a similar trend in Island County, Felici said.
In 2021, the enforcement unit seized 18,600 counterfeit pills containing fentanyl and no powder fentanyl. In 2023, the officers seized 782,800 fentanyl pills and 11.5 kilograms of powder fentanyl.
Police and emergency medical personnel on Whidbey Island regularly deal with overdoses from opioids, but it’s difficult to know exactly how often it happens. Law enforcement, paramedics and firefighters carry Narcan to treat overdoses, but so do opioid users and sometimes their family and friends. Many overdoses and the use of Narcan are not reported.
For example, Felici said deputies and county staff found a large number of used Narcan nasal spray when the Hoffman Road encampment was being cleaned up. Officials weren’t aware of most of the overdoses.
Felici and Slowik said they’ve both heard stories of opioid overdoses so serious that responders had to use multiple doses of Narcan. In one recent case, nine doses were administered to save someone, Felici said. Slowik said officers recently responded to a 7-Eleven store to help with an overdose.
Slowik said he’s personally used Narcan on people six or eight times during his years as an officer.
“It has a quick impact,” he said. “They come to pretty quickly.”