Not Good News

Detail of graph by Mark Nowlin/Seattle Times showing death rates for various drugs in King County, Washington, between 1997 and 2014.

Just, you know, take note: We have a problem.

Fatal overdoses linked to heroin surged by 58 percent in King County last year, fueling the steepest rise in local drug-caused deaths in 17 years.

Heroin was involved in 156 deaths in the region in 2014, up from 99 the year before — and just 49 in 2009. Overall, there were 314 drug deaths in the area last year, the highest number since 1997, according to a report released Thursday by the University of Washington Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute.

The only word to describe the trend is “distressing,” said Caleb Banta-Green, an affiliate associate professor of health services with the UW School of Public Health.

“I knew it was going to go up,” he said. “I didn’t know it was going to go up that much.”

(Aleccia)

Should we pause a moment to consider that no such bad news ever fails to get worse, well, right, we get interesting notes like this, as well:

Drug deaths tied to methamphetamine also jumped by 59 percent, with 70 deaths in 2014, up from 44 the year before. Among primary heroin users, meth was the common secondary drug of choice, used in about a quarter of cases.

Right. You know. One of those mixes I just never have figured out how to understand.

But beyond the strange, the only kind of good news is that things aren’t actually worse.

Washington is also among 34 states and Washington, D.C., that allow access to an opiate antidote — drugs that can reverse overdoses in minutes. Naloxone, known also as Narcan, is available at dozens of sites statewide, available to addicts, families, agencies and others who might need to revive someone after an overdose.

“The more naloxone you get out to heroin users, the lower the death rate,” Banta-Green said.

That is what we get to celebrate; we have naloxone, and it seems to be having an effect. Woo hoo. Go team.

But the real fix, Banta-Green added, is getting people into medication-assisted drug treatment. Last year, there were nearly 3,000 admissions to treatment for primary heroin addiction, the study found. That’s a third higher than the previous year and double the number from 2010.

So … right.

Could be worse.

Not sayin’ that should make you feel any better, you know?

Oh, hey, here’s one: We are the United States of America; this should be well within our capability.

____________________

Aleccia, JoNel. “Heroin deaths spike by 58 percent in Seattle area”. The Seattle Times. 18 June 2015.

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