Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute

Overdose Deaths in WA Increase 37% in 2020


Overdose deaths increased 37% in WA in 2020, with 1,724 deaths in 2020 compared to 1,259 in 2019. The largest contributor is a dramatic increase in deaths from fentanyl and fentanyl-related drugs that are illicitly manufactured.

ADAI’s WA State Opioid/Major Drug Interactive Data: Preliminary drug death trends in Washington state page has updated data from the Department of Health, including preliminary overdose death data through the end of 2020. For questions about these data please contact ADAI Research Scientist Jason Williams.

  • Fentanyl-involved deaths doubled, with 652 deaths in 2020 compared with 321 deaths in 2019. Fentanyl has contributed to a greater share of drug deaths, ~10% in 2017 to ~40% in 2020.
  • Deaths involving psychostimulants, primarily methamphetamine, increased 34%, from 540 in 2019 to 725 in 2020.
  • Heroin and prescription-type opioid deaths were relatively flat.
Drug caused deaths in WA state from 2017 to 2020 (preliminary). Shows significant increase in total number of deaths, all opioids, and fentanyls, a moderate increase in deaths from psychostimulants/meth, and smaller increases in deaths from heroin, and cocaine.

Notable increases in fentanyl deaths in the fourth quarter were seen in 11 counties. This was the second successive such quarter for Pierce, Clark, and Spokane counties. (Map below from the Preliminary drug death trends in WA State page.)

Map of WA counties showing 11 with notable increases in deaths from fentanyls in Q4 2020: Pierce
Clark, Spokane, Walla Walla, Grant, Kittitas, Whatcom, Clallam, Mason,
Grays Harbor, Lewis

Notable increases in deaths involving psychostimulants/methamphetamine were seen in Mason (n=4), Walla Walla (n=2), and Whatcom (n=4) counties.

Learn more about fentanyl

See also slides from ADAI’s recent Transforming our Communities session on youth fentanyl use. The slides include:

  • A description of Ryther’s approach to working with youth who use fentanyl, by Johnny Ohta and Dr. Taryn Hansen
  • Fentanyl and overdose death data from Dr. Caleb Banta-Green, ADAI
  • Overview of the Laced & Lethal campaign from Alison Newman, ADAI

Learn more about how to identify and reverse an opioid overdose at For information about life-saving treatment medications for opioid use disorder, as well as other recovery supports, visit