Today is National Fentanyl Awareness Day

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Today marks the first ever National Fentanyl Awareness Day, a day of action to raise public awareness about an urgent problem: people dying at alarming rates due to illegally made fentanyl.

But what is fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a powerful opioid many are unaware has entered the market. Fentanyl is a synthetic or “man-made” opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than other opioids like morphine and heroin.

There are two types of fentanyl: medical grade (prescribed by a doctor) and illegally made (illicit). Illegally made has been involved in the majority of U.S. drug deaths in recent years.

Fentanyl is very cheap and extremely addictive. There is an alarming nationwide trend of drug dealers mixing illegally made fentanyl with, and disguising it as, other common drugs like Oxycodone, Percocet and Xanax to increase profits. People may not be able to tell if fentanyl is present based on taste, smell, or the look of the drug. In Washington, fentanyl has been found in counterfeit pills made to look like prescription opioid pills, as well as in powders and black tar heroin. According to the WA Department of Health, people should assume that any drug not from a pharmacy could have fentanyl in it.

Most recent cases of fentanyl-related overdose and death have been linked to illegally made fentanyl. New data show that deaths from drug overdoses continue to increase for Washington residents and that fentanyl is a major driver. Preliminary data as of April 13 show drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids in all of 2020 is nearly twice the number in 2019. In 2021, the number of overdose deaths were 72% higher than overdose deaths in 2020. Fentanyl overdose deaths have increased about 10-fold since 2016.

What can Skagitonians do to help?

Know the facts about fentanyl and share them with your friends.

  • Fentanyl is extremely potent. As little as two milligrams of fentanyl, an amount equal to a few grains of salt, can kill a person.
  • Do you know where your pill came from? Any pill you don’t directly get from a pharmacy may contain a lethal dose of fentanyl. Real prescription drugs are not available on Instagram or Snapchat.

If you are a parent or educator, don’t avoid the topic.

  • Young people are dying from lack of information about this. 35% of youth ages 13-17 say they don’t know enough about fentanyl and its rate of danger, and 73% have never heard of fentanyl in counterfeit pills.
  • In our region, fentanyl is most commonly seen in blue, greenish, or pale colored counterfeit pills. There may be other colors. These pills may be marked as “M30” and sometimes as “K9,” “215,” and “v48.” Fentanyl may also be in white powders.

If you’re a person who uses drugs, or is considering using drugs, exercise caution.

What should you do if someone may be overdosing?

  • Under the statewide standing order, anyone can get naloxone at a pharmacy without seeing a doctor first.
  • The Good Samaritan Overdose law (RCW 69.50.315) says neither the victim nor people assisting with an overdose will be prosecuted for drug possession.

Help people struggling with opioid use disorder to find the right care and treatment. If you, or a loved one, want treatment or just want to learn more, see the Washington Recovery Helpline, or call 1-866-789-1511.

For information about what Skagit County is doing about the opioid and fentanyl crisis, for list of local treatment providers, or to learn how to use naloxone, go to www.skagitrising.org or call (360) 416-1500.


Connecting the Dots: Youth Alcohol Awareness!

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Did you know, April is Alcohol Awareness Month? If you haven’t already, now may be a good time to reflect on your drinking patterns and the role that alcohol plays in your life.

This year’s theme is “Connecting the Dots: Opportunity for Recovery, which focuses primarily on youth education and prevention. This specific group of individuals can be easily influenced by alcohol and other substances if not educated or informed about risks. For this reason, we are asking you to join us this month to help raise awareness in our communities, schools, and homes on alcohol use. 

Our youth in Skagit County

According to the 2021 Healthy Youth Survey, Alcohol use has been reported by youth as young as 6th grade, and prevalence of regular use increases each year. By 12th grade, approximately 1 in 5 12th graders reported drinking in the past month. This can be for many reasons, perhaps one being that children in these grades are not getting enough information about alcohol.

Why is it important?

Research shows that heavy alcohol use during teen years can permanently damage the still developing brain. Alcohol use at a young age is also associated with violence, poor school performance, suicide, and risky sexual behavior. The use of alcohol at this early age can lead to possible substance abuse later in life and Alcohol use disorder (AUD), which affects about 15 million adults in the United States. There are more than 380 deaths each day in the U.S. due to excessive alcohol use, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the nation.

Looking for something positive? Research also shows that about 50% of children who have conversations with parents about risks are less likely to use drugs and alcohol, than those who do not. That’s why “connecting the dots” with your child, sibling, cousin, niece, or nephew is so important.

What can we do to help spread awareness?

Although one month out of the year is not enough time to help educate and help everyone recover, continue to spread the word about the importance of alcohol awareness to friends and family.

Get creative and make informational flyers about the topic with resources and distribute them around your neighborhood town, local stores etc. Host a fundraiser to donate money to local non-profit treatment facilities.

For more information please visit:

Alcohol Awareness Month | AlcoholAwareness.org

Alcohol Awareness Month: Learn About Alcohol Use Disorder and Ways to Get Help | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) (nih.gov)

Skagit County | Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute (uw.edu)

HYS Fact Sheets (askhys.net)

Alcohol and Public Health | CDC


Secure Medicine Return…Now Available Statewide!

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Secure medicine return has been a major area of focus for Skagit County Public Health for several years now. You may have seen return boxes popping up here and there over the past 2-3 years at police departments, pharmacies, and county buildings. You might have also taken part in one of our local take back events, hosted by law enforcement and prevention coalitions, which take place every April and October.

What you may not know though is that Washington State only just recently adopted a statewide Secure Medicine Return Program, which officially launched on November 21! If you have questions about the program, and about how to dispose of your unused or expired medication, please read on…

What is the Secure Medication Program?

Safe Medication Return is a unified, statewide program that gives Washington residents free, convenient, and environmentally responsible options to dispose of unwanted medication. Drug manufacturers fund the program at no cost to taxpayers.

Safe Medication Return is operated by MED-Project, which is the approved program operator. The Washington State Department of Health oversees the establishment of the program, monitors on-going operations, manages enforcement when compliance issues arise, and evaluates program effectiveness.

Why is secure medication disposal important?

Properly disposing unused and expired medication is a great way to protect your family and your community. Research has shown that unused, unwanted, and/or expired medicines in your home pose an increased risk for drug misuse/abuse. Local data has shown that the home medicine cabinet is one of the most common places for people to go when looking for drugs to get high.

Accidental poisoning is also of major concern. Many young children get poisoned by taking medicine not intended for them. If medication is left out or stored improperly, the likelihood of little hands getting hold of these medications is quite high.

Lastly, disposing of medications improperly is bad for the environment. When medicines are flushed down the toilet or thrown in the trash, it pollutes our water and soil.

How does it work?

There are two main ways to return your unused medication. Both options are FREE.

  • Mail in your unused medication
    • Request a free prepaid envelope and one will be sent to you by mail.
    • Place your unused medication in the envelope
    • Mail the package as you would any other parcel.
  • Take it to a drop off site
    • Find your nearest drop off site, and deposit your medication in the kiosk. That’s it!
    • You do not need to provide an ID, talk with anyone, or complete paperwork.

What medicines are accepted by MED-Project? 

Medicines in any form including solids, liquids or patches, inhalers and prefilled products containing a sharp and auto-injectors (such as Epi Pens). This can include:

  • Prescription and over the counter medicines
  • Brand name and generic medicines
  • Controlled substances
  • Pet medications 

What medicines are NOT accepted?

  • Vitamins or supplements
  • Herbal-based remedies and homeopathic drugs, products or remedies
  • Cosmetics, shampoos, sunscreen, toothpaste, lip balm, antiperspirants or other personal care products
  • Pet pesticide products contained in pet collars, powders, shampoos or other forms
  • Medical sharps (needles, syringes) and empty auto injectables (such as used Epi Pens)
  • Medical devices
  • Medicines generated by businesses

For more information, visit the WA Department of Health’s Secure Medication webpage here. You can also contact Skagit County Public Health either by email at eh@co.skagit.wa.us or by phone (360) 416-1500.

Thank you for taking this extra step to ensure the safety of your friends and neighbors!