Fentanyl, the synthetic opioid that is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine, was among the many drugs confiscated during arrests of 38 suspected drug dealers at the Gorge Amphitheatre’s Paradiso Festival during the weekend, said Deputy Kyle Foreman, spokesman for the Grant County Sheriff’s Office.
It was the most drug-related arrests in the festival’s nearly decadelong tenure.
“It’s concerning,” said Foreman, who noted that the previous high for drug arrests was 30. “It’s dose related. It takes just a smidgeon to get you in trouble.”
While no overdose deaths were reported this year, fentanyl contributed to 28,000 fatalities nationwide in 2017, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. In Washington in the first half of 2018, the Department of Health recorded 81 deaths linked to fentanyl overdose, compared to 48 recorded during the same time period the year before.
Because it takes very little to get high with fentanyl, it is often mixed with other drugs, such as heroin and meth, Foreman said. Many users don’t know they’re taking drugs laced with the opioid, which can often lead to overdose deaths.
Foreman said no heroin was seized over the weekend. Ecstasy was by far the most popular drug used by festivalgoers, in addition to marijuana.
The sheriff’s office reported 97 felony charges were filed earlier this week in connection with the 38 arrests. Foreman said those arrested were carrying large amounts of product.
“We’re not talking about a small bag for personal use,” he said. “We’re talking about someone who intends to distribute to others.”
One alleged dealer also was arrested on suspicion of unlawfully carrying a firearm.
With an average of about 25,000 festival attendees, Foreman said drug use is expected among a small percentage of people.
“Our recommendation is, one, don’t do drugs,” he said. “But if you are, have a buddy — preferably somebody sober who can keep you out of trouble.”