FILE: Opioids

(The Center Square) – The current year continues to show the drug epidemic in King County is worsening as revealed by updated statistics from Public Health Seattle and King County.

According to the department’s King County overdose dashboard, there have been 272 overdose deaths as of March 16. Around the same time last year, there were 194 overdose deaths reported.

So far this year, the number of overdose deaths is outpacing last year’s record-shattering 1,019 deaths by overdose, which is a 43% increase over the county's previous high of 709 cases in 2021.

In two and a half months, the 272 overdose deaths are nearly as many cases as all of 2012, which was 274. Fentanyl is the likely reason for the uptick in deaths. The synthetic drug was involved in 70% of King County overdose deaths as of December, 2022. Out of the 272 overdose deaths this year, 175 included fentanyl. 

In January, Seattle-King County Public Health Director Dr. Faisal Khan said at a King County Board of Health meeting that the increase in fentanyl throughout the region was prevalent.

“A key indication of just how bad things are at the end of 2022 and likely to get worse in 2023: the Medical Examiner’s Office is now struggling with the issue of storing bodies, because the fentanyl-related death toll continues to climb,” Khan said in January.

Public Health Seattle and King County noted in its 2022 analysis of overdose deaths that they were significantly more likely to have occurred among the homeless population, at a hospital and involved multiple modes of injury or disease.

Staff Reporter

Spencer Pauley reports on Seattle and the King County area of Washington. He was previously an independent filmmaker and worked on "The Clinton Affair," a documentary series investigating the impeachment proceedings of former President Bill Clinton.