Thurston County Overdose Deaths Increased Again in 2022, Continuing a Troubling Trend


Deaths involving fentanyl more than doubled between 2022 and 2021 in Thurston County, according to Coroner Gary Warnock.

The Coroner's Office counted 107 deaths involving fentanyl in 2022, compared to 51 such deaths in 2021. With these statistics, Thurston County continued a troubling trend of dramatically rising deaths tied to the influx of fentanyl.

Warnock said fentanyl overdoses have affected people across the socioeconomic spectrum in Thurston County, from people experiencing homelessness to doctors. He said his office has examined the bodies of teens and seniors who were victims of the drug.

"From the low income to the medium range salary makers and even highly professional workers," Warnock said. "They come from all walks of life. ... It's just prevalent. It's everywhere."

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that's 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine and often mixed with other substances, sometimes without the users' knowledge.

In total, Warnock reported 150 confirmed and suspected deaths involving drugs in 2022. While most of them involved fentanyl, the rest involved methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and prescription medications.

However, he cautioned that the causes of dozens of deaths remain pending. He said his office can only confirm a death involved drugs once they get a toxicology report certified by a state lab.

"The reason it's suspected is because paraphernalia was found at the site or we do our own urine test and it comes back positive," Warnock said.

As such, numbers for 2022 could still rise, he said.

Overdose deaths in Thurston County have been increasing over the past several years, according to the Coroner's Office.

  • In 2021, there were 107 deaths involving drugs in 2021, including 97 accidents, eight suicides and two undetermined deaths. Fentanyl was involved in 51 of those deaths.
  • In 2020, there were 56 total deaths involving drugs, including 47 accidents, seven suicides and one undetermined death. Fentanyl was involved in 17 of those deaths.
  • In 2019, there were 45 deaths involving drugs, including 33 accidents, 11 suicides and one undetermined death. Fentanyl was involved in 10 of those deaths.
  • In 2018, there were 44 deaths involving drugs, including 39 accidents and five suicides. Fentanyl was involved in just four of those deaths.

Warnock said the costs associated with processing more overdose deaths each year has strained his staff and resources.

Increasing overdose rates also have affected emergency medical service providers, law enforcement and the Prosecuting Attorney's Office, The Olympian previously reported.


Narcan, generically known as naloxone, is a medicine used to rapidly reverse opioid overdoses. The state Department of Health has a list of instructions and resources on its website, as well as a search engine to help people find naloxone near them.

Thurston County's Public Health & Social Services department also offers a clean syringe program and naloxone training; more information can be found on the department's website.

Those in need of help for substance abuse or mental health concerns can call the Washington Recovery Help Line at 866-789-1511.

Anyone experiencing a crisis can call 988 to reach a national lifeline.

Education on how to prevent opioid overdose can be found at