PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Opioid overdoses have increased by 200% between 2019 and 2020 in Clark County, and health officials say the spike may be linked to fentanyl.

In 2019 there were 13 deaths from opioid overdoses, while in 2020 there were 39 deaths. Many of the overdoses happened between November 15-21 and involved people ages 18 to 44, according to Washington’s Department of Health.

Officials said fentanyl appears to be the primary substance in the overdoses recorded. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that can be added during the production of other illicit drugs.

“Anyone who uses powdered drugs or takes pills that were not given to them by a pharmacy should assume they contain fentanyl,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer and Public Health director. “Drugs purchased online, from friends, or from regular dealers could be deadly. There’s no way to know how much fentanyl is in a drug or if it’s evenly distributed throughout the batch.”

A fentanyl overdose is often faster and stronger than other opioid overdoses. Signs of an overdose are:

  • won’t wake up or hard to wake up
  • slow or no breathing
  • gurgling, gasping or snoring
  • pale, ashy, cool skin
  • blue or gray lips or fingernails

Health officials advise people who use drugs should keep three doses of Naloxone on hand as the medication can reverse an opioid overdose.

Those using alone are urged to tell someone or contact Never Use Alone at 800.484.3731 so they can send help if needed. People experiencing substance use disorder can also call the Washington Recovery Help Line available for 24 hours at 866.789.1511.