Any way you look at it, the State of Washington has a definite across-the-board problem with drug abuse and addiction. The biggest drug threat in the area comes from opioids – in the form of prescription and illicit painkillers and, increasingly, heroin.
According to the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, definite distressing patterns can be shown when you compare two different time periods, 2002-2004 and 2011-2013:
- Publicly-funded drug treatment admissions for opioids increased by 197%
- 38 out of 39 Washington State counties saw an increase in opioid admissions
- Opioid-related deaths rose by 31%
- 2002-2013, there were 6668 opioid-related deaths in Washington State
- In 2013, 15,042 Washington residents have prescribed buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid addiction
According to the substance abuse and mental health services administration, approximately 1 in every 10 Americans age 12 or older is addicted to alcohol or drugs. Applying that estimate to Washington State means that there are potentially over 670,000 people with a substance abuse disorder.
Distressingly, only about 9% of addicts ever get the treatment they need.
Seattle – Population 684,451
“It’s not a problem I can solve or my deputies can solve or any police officer can solve. It’s a community problem that has to be solved by everybody.”
~ King County Sheriff John Urquhart
- In 2015, heroin overdoses killed 132 people in King County
- By comparing 2002-2004 and 2011-2013, it shows that publicly-funded treatment admissions in King County increased by 81%.
- During that same timeframe, opiate deaths in the Seattle area went up by over 21%.
- Opiate-related crime lab cases also increased – by over 48%.
Spokane – Population 213,272
“We have to take the focus off the individual drug and look at why people are using drugs.”
~Kim Papich, a spokeswoman for the Spokane Regional Health District
- Between 2002-2004 and 2011-2013, publicly-funded treatment admissions in Spokane County went up by over 188%.
- Fatal drug overdoses killed 73 people in Spokane County in 2013, but by 2014, the number had risen to 104.
- Methamphetamine is the drug responsible for the most overdose deaths.
- Heroin deaths tripled from 2014 to 2015.
Tacoma – Population 207,948
“To bring a real change in chronic disease, you do need lifestyle changes.”
~ Asif Rashid Khan, a board-certified addiction medicine specialist who works with the Tacoma Drug Court
- Between 2002-2004 and 2011-2013, publicly-funded treatment admissions in Pierce County went up by more than 152%.
- During that same timeframe, opioid deaths in Pierce County increased by over 32%.
- 16% of adults in Pierce County engage in binge-drinking.
- Almost half of driving deaths in the Tacoma area—45%–involve alcohol.
Bellevue – Population 139,820
“There was a lot of money in the 90s, particularly going into the drug war. The fact is that the priority has shifted – there’s been a lot more money put towards treatment and diversion efforts.”
~ Sandy Mullins, Senior Policy Advisor for Washington Governor Inslee
- Within the last four years, heroin-related emergency calls tripled from 40 in 2010 to 120 in 2014.
- In 2010, first responders from Bellevue only had to administer the anti-overdose drug Narcan 49 times. But for the last three years, Narcan has been administered approximately 75 times a year.
- Treatment admissions are up 360% in Bellevue since 2012.
- 2010-2013, 40% of DUIs were committed by drivers under the age of 21.
Kent – Population 126,952
“Drug tear at the inner fabric of our community in countless ways. They bring violence to our streets. They waste young lives and wreak havoc on families. They drain the resources of our healthcare systems.”
~ FBI Special-Agent-in-Charge Laura Laughlin, after a 2012 bust of Kent man as part of an operation against a major oxycodone distribution ring
- 18% of area adults regularly engage in excessive drinking
- 39% of traffic fatalities in the area are alcohol-related
- On National Prescription Drug Takeback Day, Kent police collected over 300 pounds of excess medication.
- Up to 1000 people, a year are admitted to area treatment programs for methamphetamine abuse.
- From 2011 to 2015, the use of “goofballs” – a combination of heroin and methamphetamines – more than doubled, from 14% to 37%.
Everett – Population 108,010
“These people on a meth binge get paranoid, their brains are literally getting eaten, and they will do anything to keep the high. But our solution is not to lock everybody up. If they agree to treatment – and it takes about a year to effectively treat someone – they can avoid jail.”
~ Jim Krider, former Snohomish County District Attorney
- 2002-2004 to 2011-2013, publicly-funded treatment admissions in Snohomish County shot up over 320%.
- 2010-2015, heroin-related deaths in the area increased almost threefold.
- Snohomish County is home to 10% of Washington State residents, but 20% of heroin deaths.
- 18% of area adults engage in binge-drinking.
- 4 out of every 10 traffic fatalities in the area are alcohol-related.
Renton – Population 100,242
“Heroin abuse is impacting every community in the region, and we need to work together to try and develop a sustainable solution to this rapidly-growing crisis.”
~ Renton Mayor Denis Law
- 2009-2014, heroin deaths in the area tripled, from 49 to 156 – the highest number in 20 years.
- More people in the county check into a detox facility for heroin than they do for alcohol.
- 2006-2014, the number of area residents under the age of 30 checking into a treatment facility due to heroin addiction doubled.
- On any given day in King County, 150 people are on the waiting list for methadone treatment.
Yakima – Population 93,701
“It’s far easier today than it’s ever been to get treatment. There are some areas of our treatment range that we’d like to see more of. Withdrawal management is one. We don’t have enough medically-managed detoxification beds in the state of Washington.”
~ Treatment Director Tom Davidson
- 2002-2004 to 2011-2013, publicly-funded treatment admissions for Yakima County increased by over 50%.
- During the same timeframe, opioid deaths rose by more than 13%.
- 49% of all traffic deaths in the area are alcohol-related.
- Since 2011, 134 people in the Yakima area have died of an overdose.
Olympia – Population 50,302
“We need to address opioid addiction and overdose across the entire spectrum, from prevention to treatment. As a medical community, we applaud positive steps such as expanding access to naloxone, the overdose antidote, and expanding access to treatment.”
~ Dr. Ray C. Hsiao, M.D., President of the Washington State Medical Association
- 2002-2004 to 2011-2013, publicly-funded treatment admissions for Thurston County increased by 135%.
- The same time, opioid deaths in the area went up over 30%.
- In 2013, the Thurston County Syringe Exchange Program collected more than 1 million used needles.
- 16% of area adults engage in bouts of binge-drinking.
- 48% of Thurston County traffic deaths are alcohol-related.
Puyallup – Population 39,659
“Heroin addiction stems from prescription opioid medications… It’s powerful and addictive. It affects housewives, fathers – it’s not the typical junkie. It’s hard to get off of it.”
~ Puyallup Police Chief Brian Jeter
- At one point, Pierce County was known as the “meth capital” of America
- There are 21 secure medication drop-off locations in the area
- 2005-2014, there were 704 fatal overdose opioids in the county
- 129 people in the area sought treatment for the first time for opioid addiction in 2002, but by 2015, that number had shot up to 438
- 2002-2015, there were 3424 first-time missions for opioid addiction
All of the cities are located in counties that have been identified as High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas. What this means to the average Washington State resident is that it is very likely – even probable – that they or someone they know has been affected by substance abuse and addiction.