Price of illicit fentanyl in WA drops to as low as 50 cents a pill

By: - September 15, 2023 12:06 pm

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

You can now buy illicit fentanyl on Washington’s streets for as little as 50 cents a pill. 

That’s according to police and local advocates working with people who use drugs. They say fentanyl is selling for anywhere from 50 cents to $5 a pill, depending on location and dealer-user relationships. 

In Seattle, the price of the dangerous opioid is as low as 40 cents a pill in wholesale bulk purchases, said Detective Judinna J. Gulpan, a spokesperson for the Seattle Police Department. However, the street price is usually around $3 to $5, Gulpan said. 

As fentanyl floods the illicit drug market, the price for a pill has dropped substantially in the past few years. Dealers will even offer tens of thousands of pills to local distributors without being paid, allowing payment after the pills are sold, said Sergeant Al Schultz, a Tacoma Police Department special investigations unit officer.

“We have sources trying to give us 20,000 pills when we only want to actually buy 1,000,” said Schultz, who works undercover, in an email to the Standard. 

Fentanyl is the main driver of opioid overdose deaths in Washington state. In 2022, the drug was involved in 90% of fatal opioid overdoses in the state and 65% of all overdose deaths, according to the University of Washington’s Addictions, Drug and Alcohol Institute. 

Easy access to fentanyl makes treating addiction even more challenging, especially because intake for treatment can take hours, according to Loni Greninger, tribal council vice chair of Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, which runs one of the largest opioid use treatment centers in the state. 

“Nobody wants to stick around for four hours when they can go get that pill instantly,” Greninger said. 

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Grace Deng
Grace Deng

Grace Deng joined the Washington State Standard shortly after graduating from Northwestern University in June 2023. Grace, who currently lives in Tacoma, is a local Washingtonian who was born and raised in Snohomish County. She has previous experience covering statehouse politics and policy for the Minnesota Reformer and the USA TODAY Ohio Network, which includes the Columbus Dispatch, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Akron-Beacon Journal.