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Seattle braces for drug 50 times more potent than heroin

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Photo courtesy of the DEA

SEATTLE (KOMO) -- An extremely potent illegal drug could soon show up in Seattle. There have been overdose deaths to the north and south of us, and that has law enforcement concerned and bracing for the widespread arrival of fentanyl.

"Fentanyl is extremely potent," said DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Doug James. "It takes microgram quantities to get high. An individual can overdose on less than a gram. It's 50 times more potent than heroin, 100 times more potent than morphine."

The DEA says agents busted two fentanyl labs in the Seattle area in four years. The most recent case was a few weeks ago. And with widespread cases in California and British Columbia, they anticipate the fentanyl trade to pick up here.

Caleb Banta-Green tracks drug use through UW's School of Public Health. He encourages users to have the antidote naloxone on hand, to buy time in an overdose.

And he says parents need to educate their kids.

"As a parent you can say, 'I just want to make sure you know this to share with your friends,'" Banta-Green said. "You don't have to point your finger at the kid and say 'I'm just worried about you,' but say 'hey I want to make sure you know this information and that your friends know about it.'"

Naloxone is available at the needle exchange sites in downtown Seattle and the U-District, as well as some pharmacies. Banta-Green also wants to make sure people know about Washington's Good Samaritan Law, which says someone who calls 911 to report an overdose or alcohol poisoning won't be prosecuted for possession or use.

"The target audience is anyone who is using opiates," Banta-Green said. "We ask in the high school surveys about using prescription type opiates to get high in the last month, and it's still around 6-8% of 10th and 12th graders. So that's a couple kids in every classroom."

James points out, drugs like fentanyl cross socioeconomic boundaries and don't recognize class or education.

"It's not going to take much for a criminal organization to come in and market those pills, market the powder, and unfortunately we'll start seeing overdose deaths," James said.

He encouraged people to contact the DEA's anonymous tip-line to report prescription drug or heroin abuse. You can text "TIPDEA" to 847411 or DEA 411 with information.

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