The Rise of Fentanyl Use in Washington


Photo By Patty Alway

Demonstration put on for volunteering students to learn how to administer Narcan.

On March 24, Prairie students attended an assembly about fentanyl led by by Sgt. Bill Sofianos from the Clark County Sheriff’s office. The assembly was to help bring awareness to how lethal fentanyl can be, and why the use of this drug has increased in use. After this assembly school students who signed up for training were taught how to use naloxone, an overdose reversal medication, that is very effective on those who overdose on fentanyl.

Fentanyl was first used and prescribed to those having severe pain, and undergoing surgery. All the way back in 1960, fentanyl was first introduced, but in the last two decades is where it started to get illicitly manufactured, gaining a much greater frequency in 2014 till today. The reason for its popularity is due to its high potency, and it’s very addictive nature. Fentanyl is now able to be mass-produced for low prices very rapidly, and because of this, the number of overdoses in Washington state as well as the entire country has gone up tremendously, almost 10 times the amount from 2017-2021. This shows how big of a problem fentanyl is becoming not just in Washington but nationwide.

As Sgt Sofianos emphasized, part of the problem is individuals not being able to distinguish between legal, and illegal fentanyl. much of the illegal fentanyl, especially pills, aren’t made well causing many overdoses; with different amounts of fentanyl being present in pills, anything over 2 mg being potentially lethal. And many pills being manufactured illicitly are made to look like legitimate pills, confusing people even more. Lots of the time it’s hard to tell the differences between illegal and legal but there are things to look for. Some things to look for are differentiating colors, shapes, and pressing errors, if you are using or someone you know is using fentanyl for prescription use make sure you check before use and do not share pills. 

It is scary to see how big the rise in overdoses there is, but there are always things to look for to keep yourself safe. The best and most important way is to avoid these substances at much as you can.