PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – Local leaders are warning of an alarming trend of an increase in overdoses and deaths across the state of Oregon tied to fentanyl-laced drugs.
Both the Washington and Multnomah County Sheriff’s Offices say they are seeing an alarming number of counterfeit opioid pills containing fentanyl. In extremely small doses, fentanyl can be deadly. The agencies, along with Multnomah County Public Health, AMR and the Beaverton School District, say the overdoses and deaths are happening in most age groups from teens to older adults and in all backgrounds.
“In the last year or so, we have seen a huge uptick in narcotics and specifically in pills that look like oxycodone,” AMR Paramedic Dan Hall said.
“This year alone, the win team has investigated 14 overdose deaths, and 10 of those are suspected to be caused by a counterfeit fit prescription drug containing fentanyl,” Washington County Sergeant Danny DiPietro said.
He adds for the same time period, in 2020, the agency only saw three deaths, and in 2019 only one.
Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese said in Oregon last year, more than 733,000 counterfeit pills were seized, compared to 2015 when that number was zero. The agencies say the pills are coming from abroad and also being manufactured in the state.
“They are sold on the street for as little as $10 to $15. It is incredibly potent and dangerous,” Reese said.
The impact is being felt across the board. The Beaverton School District says in the last 18 months, several students have lost their lives because of fentanyl.
“Teenagers who had hopes and dreams and plans. These teenagers had families who loved them and are still coming to grips with their losses,” Superintendent Don Grotting said.
DiPietro said when it comes to teens getting the drugs, it is often coming from friends or a friend of a friend. He adds these teens feel safer in buying them but says taking them can turn deadly quickly.
“Anyone who gets pills from anywhere other than a pharmacy should assume they are counterfeit and contain deadly amounts of fentanyl,” Dr. Jennifer Vines with Multnomah County Public Health said.
The Beaverton School District plans to launch a campaign at the end of April addressing the dangers of these pills and providing resources for families and staff.