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Acetylfentanyl-laced cocaine may have killed two in King County

Summary

Two deaths may be related to cocaine laced with acetylfentanyl, a potentially deadly synthetic drug. Health officials are warning residents not to use cocaine.

Story

This week, the King County Medical Examiner's Office conducted autopsies on two women who apparently died from cocaine that may have been contaminated with acetylfentanyl. These findings are preliminary, but Public Health officials are concerned enough to issue a public alert about the overdose danger even before the confirmatory tests are conducted.

"Cocaine users need to be aware that acetylfentanyl-laced cocaine can kill quickly when snorted or injected.  There is no way to know whether cocaine is laced with acetylfentanyl, so the best prevention is to avoid use of cocaine altogether," said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County.

The last known acetylfentanyl death in King County was in 2015.  Acetylfentanyl is not the same as the more commonly known fentanyl. Acetylfentanyl is 5 times or more stronger than heroin and stronger than prescription fentanyl.  Acetylfentanyl is not prescribed but is synthesized in clandestine laboratories. The opioid antaganost naloxone (Narcan) can help to reverse an overdose from acetylfentanyl, but higher doses may be needed compared to heroin.

The two people who died inhaled (snorted) and did not inject the cocaine. Health officials suspect that the two women were exposed to the same batch of drug and that these deaths do not represent two separate incidents. No additional information about the two deaths is available. Health officials are trying to learn where the drug may have been acquired and if other drugs may have played a role. Public Health will release more information as it is uncovered.


Update 7/20/16:
Additional information provided by law enforcement concludes that the cocaine was not laced with acetylfentanyl at the point of purchase but that it likely was mixed after it was obtained.

Providing effective and innovative health and disease prevention services for two million residents and visitors of King County, Public Health — Seattle & King County works for safer and healthier communities for everyone, every day.