According to the Washington State Department of Health, there were nearly 700 overdose deaths in the first 6 months of 2020. Many fear stats in 2021 will come in even more grim. There is no question, we are in the midst of a new health crisis and one of the "variants" of this crisis, is Fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is exponentially stronger than morphine and heroin. It's more dangerous too. We talked with an undercover Spokane Police Officer who told us Fentanyl has made this the scariest time in his law enforcement career. The drugs are so potent, so overwhelmingly dangerous, and unfortunately he says, so easy to get.
"Three years ago, we never saw it," he said. "We heard tales of it in the Tri Cities or on the coast, but now, we see it in pretty much every search warrant we do."
And making things especially scary, Fentanyl pills can be made to look like almost anything. Often, the drug is concealed in what appears to be a typical prescription painkiller, things like Percocet or Vicodin. They're made out of the country, in warehouses, and are then smuggled into the U.S. The drugs are sold as what they look like, prescription painkillers. But they're counterfeit painkillers, made with almost no quality control. That means that one counterfeit pill could have zero Fentanyl in it, and the pill right next to it could have a deadly amount. Law enforcement says one in six pills could be deadly, meaning every pill taken is like playing Russian Roulette.
We talked with multiple families in Spokane and Coeur d'Alene who have lost loved ones to Fentanyl, in the past six months. They all told us the same thing: Kayla Boyle thought she was taking a Percocet. Michael Stabile thought he was taking an Oxycodone. And these families know, their loved one shouldn't have been taking any pills bought illegally, but that also shouldn't have been a death sentence.