11 already this year, 23 last year, from being first seen in 2018

   WHATCOM ­— Drug overdose deaths related to the drug Fentanyl are on the rise and should be of concern to county residents, says Whatcom County chief deputy Kevin Hester in an April 1 press release.

  This is his account:

  During the first quarter of 2021, the Whatcom Gang and Drug Task Force confirmed a disturbing trend in Fentanyl-related overdose deaths in the city of Bellingham and Whatcom County, as well as the presence of very dangerous Carfentanyl in some of the victims.

  In the last two weeks, there have been a total of five Fentanyl-related overdose deaths locally. These were two males, ages 60 and 48, and one female, age 43, in Bellingham and two adult males, ages 29 and 42, in Whatcom County.

  These five deaths are indicative of the danger each dose presents to even chronic drug abusers.  On the street, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid usually found in powder or pill form and can be added or substituted, with or without the user’s knowledge, as the active ingredients in counterfeit Oxycodone, Percocet or Xanax pills.

  While previously seen this way in Whatcom County, now it is being found in powder form which is reported to mimic, or be sold as, methamphetamine or “China White” heroin. The highly potent Carfentanyl has been detected in some of the recent overdose victims.

  Fentanyl is 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Carfentanyl is 100 times more potent than Fentanyl. A single dose the size of a pin head can be lethal.

  According to Hester,  who is also the task force commander, “Illicit drug users may have no idea what is actually in the drugs they use, or the potency, until it’s too late.”

  This is the timeline of increased prevalence of the drug and its effects, determined in collaboration with the Whatcom County Medical Examiner’s Office:

  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 (first quarter only): Eleven fentanyl-related overdose deaths.  Carfentanyl detected in some overdose victims.

  The Drug Task Force, the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, the Bellingham Police Department and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration have actively investigated many of these overdose deaths in an attempt to track down the providers of the counterfeit drugs or fentanyl. In those cases, charges have been brought against multiple suspects for controlled substance homicide or manslaughter. Law enforcement agencies in Whatcom County will continue to actively pursue these cases in an attempt to prevent more needless deaths.

  Authorities urge people to take precautions and become knowledgeable about the dangers of these drugs. Parents should talk with their children in regard to taking illicit drugs or prescription pills that are bought on the street or given to them by others. Prescription pills should only be taken from a licensed pharmacy with a valid prescription. If you suspect someone has overdosed, immediately call 911 and say it is a suspected overdose. If available, administer Narcan or start life-saving efforts until medical help arrives.