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No, that's not cocaine. People are buying fentanyl in disguise and dying

Overdose deaths from illicit fentanyl have spiked in Washington state.

Eighty one deaths since the beginning of the year.

Compare that with 48 deaths from the same period a year ago, the state health department said.

The powerful opiate is showing up in counterfeit pills made to look the same as prescription drugs like oxycontin. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid and can be 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin.

“While fentanyl has been a significant cause of overdose death elsewhere in the United States, our state is now seeing the rise of its deadly impact,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, state health officer and co-chair of the state’s Opioid Response Work Group.

Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health Seattle King County, said users are likely unaware that they’re buying such a powerful drug.

“The scary thing is, there’s absolutely no quality control," he said. "This is not a pharmaceutical product. Some of these pills may have very high levels high enough to kill you very rapidly. Others may have very little."

Duchin said that fentanyl is also turning up in white and colored powders. “It can kill very rapidly. It can kill while the drug is still being injected, and that is one of the reasons we encourage people to carry naloxone,” he said.

Naloxone can reverse the effect of an overdose. Public health officials urge people who use opioids to take these actions to help protect themselves from an overdose:

• Seek treatment from the Recovery Helpline (see map of providers). Information is a confidential phone call away at 1-866-789-1511.

• Carry naloxone. Visit to see locations that provide naloxone in Washington.

• If you witness an overdose, call 911, give naloxone and do rescue breathing. Fentanyl may require multiple doses of naloxone to restore breathing. The law (RCW 69.50.315) says neither the victim nor persons assisting with an overdose will be prosecuted for drug possession.

• Never use drugs alone.

• Be careful about using too fast. Fentanyl is fast-acting and deadly. Many experienced opioid users have overdosed or died by using too much, too quickly.