'A disturbing trend': Whatcom County reports five fentanyl overdose deaths in two weeks

The Whatcom County Sheriff's Office is warning about a disturbing trend: five people have died from fentanyl-related overdoses in a two-week period.

According to the sheriff's office, three people died in Bellingham - two 60-year-old men and a 48-year-old woman. Two others, a 29-year-old man and a 42-year-old man, died in Whatcom County. 

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that's cheap to make and can be added to prescription pills like Oxycodone, Percocet and Xanax - sometimes without the user knowing. 

In Whatcom County, the fentanyl has more recently been found in powder form and is being sold as methamphetamine or "China White" heroin. 

RELATED: DEA: Mexican cartel smuggling illicit fentanyl is biggest threat to Washington state

Investigators say what's equally troubling is that some of the people who overdosed had carfentanil in their systems. Carfentanil, often used as an elephant transquilizer, is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times stronger than fentanyl. 

A single dose the size of a pin head can be lethal, the sheriff's office says. 

"Illicit drug users may have no idea what is actually in the drugs they use, or the potency, until it’s too late," Chief Deputy Kevin Hester said. 

RELATED: Seattle detectives seize over 400,000 fentanyl pills, several handguns

The Whatcom Gang and Drug Task Force and the Whatcom County Medical Examiner’s Office have offered the following timeline on the growing number of fentanyl-related deaths: 

  • 2018: First recognized cases of fentanyl pills known as "M30’s" found on an arrestee in Whatcom County
  • 2019: Four fentanyl related overdose deaths
  • 2020: Twenty-three fentanyl related overdose deaths
  • 2021: (1st Quarter Jan-Mar) Eleven fentanyl related overdose deaths. Carfentanyl detected in some overdose victims.

Click here for a list of treatment centers listed on the Whatcom County government website. 

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