Heroin Drug Abuse Increases in Washington State
Do you want the good news or bad news first? The good news is prescription-drug abuse has fallen in Washington State. The bad news is heroin drug abuse, especially among those under the age of 30 has dramatically increased according to a University of Washington report. Heroin drug abuse in general is up across the state of Washington particularly among 18 to 30 year olds. The reason for this may be the crackdown on prescription drug abuse. It also may have something to do with the fact that heroin is significantly cheaper than prescription narcotics. Either way the report shows all the numbers in relation to heroin are up.
In King County, Washington State overdose deaths involving heroin drug abuse increased from 49 in 2009 to 84 in 2012. This increase of overdose deaths were all within the age group that is under 30.
The information provided was compilation of results from treatment programs, evidence tested by the state crime lab and overdose death investigation records as well as information from law enforcement sources.
This doesn’t mean that legitimate pain patients are turning to heroin what this means is that people who were abusing prescription drugs are now finding themselves in the midst of heroin drug abuse. Banta-Green, researcher and author of the report from the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, said he saw no evidence that legitimate pain patients were turning to heroin as tightened state regulations in recent years have reduced the supply of prescription pain medications.
“I think when we reined in opiate prescribing, it dried up the market for diverted prescription pharmaceuticals, and the people who were abusing prescription pharmaceuticals switched over to heroin,” he said.
The evidence of heroin drug abuse increasing
The evidence of prescription narcotics has dropped significantly within the drugs sent to the Washington State Patrol’s Crime Laboratory. But heroin evidence has soared. According to a report from 2007 to last year the number of samples collected by police that tested positive for heroin nearly tripled, to 2,251.
And it isn’t just in the cities of Washington State. . .
Usually the regions with highest rates of heroin evidence collected per 100,000 people are the cities. But now it isn’t. The less populated parts of Washington State including the very out skirts are seeing the most heroin drug abuse evidence. This includes counties from Clallam to Clark and from Whatcom to Snohomish Counties within Washington State.
And what about the treatment centers?
Across the entire state of Washington, there was a rise in first time admits to publicly funded addiction treatment programs where heroin was the primary drug. The numbers increased from 590 in 2003 to 1,397 in 2012. And the increase is all among young adults.
Dave Rodriguez, director of the Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area group, said many young people began their drug use through pharmaceutical-type opioids, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, often raided from a medicine cabinet.
“But once that free supply dries up, and they’ve developed an addiction, they have to go out on the black market,” he said, where Mexican black-tar heroin costs considerably less than prescription opiates. “I’m sure it was the last thing on their minds that they would end up getting addicted and using heroin.”
The deaths due to heroin drug abuse increasing in Washington State
Deaths in King County, Washington State from any type of drug have actually dropped down from 286 in 2006 but last year it went up again to 274. The largest increases were for deaths involving heroin and methamphetamines. And the increase was of course primarily deaths of those under the age of 30.
“Usually people die in their 40s, not in their 20s,” Banta-Green said. “We don’t know if (the increase in young people’s deaths) is something about the drug, about how they use, combining it with other drugs, or that they haven’t developed tolerance yet.”
No one has to die from heroin drug abuse in Washington State
The chief medical officer for Washington State’s health care authority said heroin or opiate overdoses can be prevented. He urged anyone who knows anyone or whom themselves could overdose to get a prescription for naloxone which is an antidote. Under Washington State law users, family members and concerned friends can all carry naloxone.