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Washington health officials suggest everyone carries Naloxone as fentanyl use rises

Earlier this year, Washington state made the overdose-reversal drug Naloxone available to everyone at pharmacies.

SEATTLE — On the side of Seattle's University Temple United Methodist Church, rainbow-painted doors lead you to the People's Harm Reduction Alliance, a needle exchange and addiction resource center in the University District. 

Executive Director Shilo Jama says 60-90 people come through their doors every day for help. 

"Participants constantly ask our staff, is there fentanyl in the drugs nowadays, and we always say you should always assume it's been tainted."

Fentanyl has been on the minds of users, advocates and health experts for a few years now. Because of how cheap and powerful it is, 50 to 100 times more than heroin, Jama says it's almost a guarantee to be found in any illicit opioid. 

"It's becoming a fact of life and it's a sad fact, but it's reality," he said. 

This year, $101,000 in funding was allocated by the state to give syringe services locations like PHRA feantanyl strip tests. 

Drug residue is dissolved in water and a small, thin strip is placed in it for 5 minutes. After that time, either one line or two will show up on the test -- one is positive, two is negative. It won't say how much fentanyl is in the substance, only a yes or no answer, like a pregnancy test. It's helpful information for those using drugs.

"It's really a limited tool, so our main focus is to have naloxone," said Emalie Huriaux of the Washington State Department of Health's Drug User Health Team.  

The Department of Health (DOH), however, suggests all of us do something, whether we use drugs or not. 

Earlier this year, Washington state made the overdose-reversal drug Naloxone available to everyone at pharmacies. It can save lives and now DOH recommends we all have it in our medicine cabinet. 

RELATED: Washington expands access to opioid reversal medication naloxone

"Parents can have it, teens can carry it, it's something that's a very safe medicine and we have a statewide prescription for it," said Huriaux. 

These resources act as armor against the complicated reality of opioid addiction. 

"There are no silver bullets for this, we're going to have to use lots of little things to better people's safety," said Jama. 

RELATED: Vigil held for Skyline High School students who died from accidental fentanyl overdoses

RELATED: Tacoma Fire's Safe Station offers 24-hour help for opioid abuse


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