Law-enforcement officials have identified Sara Valenzuela, 36, and Maria Paschell, 49, as the women who died last week in Seattle after snorting cocaine laced with a powerful synthetic opiate, acetyl fentanyl.
Medical examiners have identified two women who died in Seattle last week after apparently snorting cocaine laced with a powerful synthetic opiate called acetyl fentanyl.
The King County Medical Examiner’s Office on Monday reported that Sara Valenzuela, 36, and Maria Paschell, 49, died May 30, with the cause and manner of their deaths still pending toxicology reports.
Seattle police said that two women matching the victims’ descriptions were found June 1 in Valenzeula’s apartment in the 1500 block of 12th Avenue amid signs of cocaine use. Officers were called to the apartment by a leasing agent, who said a tenant’s mother had been calling frantically because she couldn’t reach her daughter, according to a police report.
Officials with Public Health — Seattle & King County issued a warning Friday, saying autopsy reports indicated that the two women died after snorting cocaine from the same batch cut with acetyl fentanyl, the synthetic drug responsible for dozens of deaths nationwide.
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The relationship between the two women was unclear. A small dog was found in the apartment with the women. It was taken to the Seattle Animal Shelter, police said.
Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer, urged cocaine users to stay away from the drug for fear it may be contaminated with acetyl fentanyl, which can kill quickly and without warning.
Acetyl fentanyl is less powerful than ordinary fentanyl, a prescribed narcotic painkiller, but it’s at least five times more potent than heroin, health officials said. It’s not prescribed, but instead is synthesized in illicit laboratories.
The opiate antidote Narcan, which is used to reverse the effects of heroin, is less effective against acetyl fentanyl and may require higher doses to prevent overdose, officials said.
The last acetyl fentanyl death in King County was in 2015. Nationwide, however, reports of deaths caused by the super-potent drug are on the rise. As of July 2015, officials with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) were aware of 52 confirmed deaths involving acetyl fentanyl between 2013 and 2015.
The drug is not part of most illicit drug screens and may remain undetected in many cases, officials said.
DEA has said that regional drug dealers may add acetyl fentanyl to heroin or cocaine to boost the potency of a product that has been diluted by other dealers.