AUGUSTA, Wash.

— Washington’s heroin epidemic has taken a dramatic turn with the deaths of two women and the wounding of a fifth, all while police say drug dealers have been taking advantage of the chaos to prey on the vulnerable.

In the past week, the number of heroin-related overdose deaths in the state has surged from nearly 1,200 in October to more than 4,400 in the past two weeks, according to preliminary data from the Washington State Patrol.

The surge in overdoses has put Washington in the midst of one of the nation’s worst drug and alcohol epidemics.

The state’s heroin crisis is the second-worst in the nation, according the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

More than 6,000 people died of heroin overdoses in the first six months of 2017, according a tally compiled by the nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group.

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