Monday night last week in the late evening sun in Cal Anderson, Seattle Fire medics arrived near the playground where bystanders were trying to save the life of a 24-year-old female suffering a drug overdose. Unconscious and not breathing, the woman was brought out of the OD with an injection of naloxone.
Far from a miracle, the overdose fortunately won’t be added to the disturbing trend of spiking heroin deaths:
Death from opiates in King County in 2014:
Heroin-involved deaths totaled 156, a 58% increase from 99 in 2013.
Heroin deaths involving no other drugs are most common among young adults.
Prescription-type opiate-involved deaths have decreased from a peak of 164 in 2009 to 98 in 2014.
In the study from the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, heroin deaths were up across all age groups. As in past UW studies, researches say a mix of heroin with other drugs is often part of the overdose — but 2014 totals reveal a new recipe. “Historically, many heroin deaths have involved cocaine, and this continues to be the case,” a report on the study notes. “However, over the past three years, many more deaths have involved heroin and methamphetamine.”
Heroin’s high, however, is at the core of the region’s addiction problems. “The number of treatment admissions with heroin as the primary drug doubled from 2010-2014 and are higher than any drug since at least 1999,” according to the study.
While it doesn’t address addiction, access to naloxone improved earlier this year with the passage of a new law allowing pharmacists to prescribe naloxone to first responders, homeless shelters, and family members and permit them to administer it across the state. The antidote can’t, of course, save everybody. In April, one man died in an overdose in Cal Anderson while two others were taken to the hospital.
Heroin is also taking its toll on the homeless and mentally ill population in the county:
Among those admitted to drug treatment, approximately one-third were determined to have serious mental health issues.
Among people who died of drug-overdose, approximately 20% had an antidepressant detected in their body — indicating that the decedent had a serious mental health condition and that they had seen a healthcare provider in the recent past.
Mental health and substance abuse commonly overlap and exacerbate one another.
You can read more about the 2014 edition of the study here.