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Drug overdose deaths continue to climb in King County

Deaths caused by drug and alcohol use increased in 2017 for King County residents according to two new reports published by the UW Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute and Public Health – Seattle & King County. The reports look at the statistics of overdose deaths in King County as well as trends in drug use for 2017.

According to the recently released 2017 Overdose Death Report, deaths involving drugs or alcohol in King County increased from 348 in 2016 to 379 in 2017, and the majority of those deaths involved multiple drugs.

Of those deaths, 69 percent were due to heroin and opioids, including fentanyl. Between 2008 and 2017, opioid-related deaths involving heroin increased from 23 percent to 56 percent. During that same time period, deaths involving prescription opioids decreased from 71 percent to 36 percent.

In 2017, 33 deaths involved fentanyl, an increase from the 23 fentanyl-related deaths that occurred in 2016. In the first quarter of 2018 there have already been 17 confirmed deaths related to fentanyl.

Data from the report also shows that deaths that involve methamphetamines have increased significantly from 18 in 2008 to 136 in 2017.

Source: 2017 Overdose Death Report

The other released report, 2017 Drug Use Trends, evaluated drug use trends for cocaine, opioids, marijuana, methamphetamines, and benzodiazepines. The report also included data from the 2017 syringe exchange survey.

The survey reports 7,112,962 syringes exchanged last year. Over two thirds were for people “impermanently housed” and 42 percent had been incarcerated the previous year. Sixty-two percent reported they currently carried naloxone and most of the people surveyed said they wanted to stop or reduce their opioid or stimulant use.

“The opioid epidemic in King County continues to increase, with no end in sight,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “We know that most people with opioid use disorder want help to reduce their use, and we are increasing treatment access throughout the County. But the epidemic is outpacing our efforts, both locally and nationally.”