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Seattle Fire stops overdose in Cal Anderson from joining awful King County heroin trend

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.


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28 thoughts on “Seattle Fire stops overdose in Cal Anderson from joining awful King County heroin trend

    • It isn’t a free decision by a lot of them. Many became addicted to opiates through prescription pain killers, and have turned to heroin to get it. This shouldn’t matter though, and I’m sure your attitude would be different if a friend or family member were to fall into this cycle.

      • Specifically, Oxy is given for extreme pain relief and is highly addictive. Since no one really cares about getting people off Oxy when the pain subsides (or the pain never really subsides), they are forced to switch to illegal heroin because it’s cheaper than street Oxy.

      • I completely support the expanded use of Naloxone, because it will save lives. Yes, addiction is a medical condition, but it is treatable. How many street addicts ever make any effort to get into a treatment program?

      • I doubt any addicts look to get help. I assume when they are strung out they are in their own utopia.

        Instead of them seeking help, help should seek them. Once they are finally sober I’m certain they will be most thankful someone cared.

      • I don’t know. I’ve never had to struggle with addiction like this. But, extrapolating from my own desires to change habits, I can imagine that it’s difficult to move forward with treatment, even if it’s something you want to do.

        With that in mind, I think the spirit of harm reduction in matters like this one become quite important. Opiate addiction is strong and deadly—while people are finding their way, it’s important for us to make sure we can prevent death.

        But, I think I agree with where your coming from: we do need more resources committed toward treatment and outreach.

      • Timmy, I agree with you that many addicts are just unable to help themselves. But, how exactly would “help should seek them” work? Our current laws would no doubt prevent some kind of a “sweep” and taking people to treatment centers. I am not aware of any programs which actually send out mental health/addiction specialists to places like Cal Anderson Park in an effort to nudge addicts into treatment. Instead, everyone just looks the other way and pretends that these serious problems do not exist. Meanwhile, addicts and alcoholics are running roughshod over our neighborhood.

      • The sponsored homeless camps will bring some improvement there. Social workers will have a central location. As it is, they’re only able to reach out when camps are torn down. Housing first is the next step in this direction. With a more stable situation, addicts can more easily make the transition into rehab. It’s worked for alcoholics on a smaller scale.

      • Bob, I don’t think sweeps or sending public/mental health professionals out on the streets is the answer either. But we do need more outreach programs even perhaps police and first responders having the capacity to engage these folks differently. I don’t have the answers but I know addicts primary focus on getting their next high and not about stopping into treatment facilities.

    • Bob, thank you for your uneducated comments on this matter and many others. Your comments regularly provide an opportunity for more informed people to respond, helping to inform those readers who may have similar reactions to you but recognize they have more to learn on the subject. :)

      • The part about people “deciding” to use as if it’s entirely they’re fault spoke volumes and demonstrated a lack of sympathy for and understanding of people with drug problems. I actually read that phrase as a personal attack, which is why I came at you like that.

      • Pragmatic, We learned Bob Knudson is a physician when he was profiled as a serious contributor to this blog. I think his comments on this are very “practical” and he clearly know a lot about medications and their effect.

  1. Maybe if there was better policing in Cal Anderson she wouldn’t have been so close to dying near the playground. I for one am sick to death of having to police the playground for all the garbage these junkies leave behind them.

    • We’re not doing these people any favors by letting them lay around ca park or on broadway. Without treatment, where will these people be in 10 years.

      • You honestly don’t believe that junkies are coherent enough prior to shooting up, to think about where they physically are? You’re giving them so much of a pass, that you can’t even hold them accountable for choosing to shoot up on a playground in a park when there are plenty of junkie friendly dumpsters to hide behind.

      • Junkies are under no obligation to make the world safer for your children, or to consider your feelings–nor will they. Expecting logical thinking from someone suffering from addiction will only lead to frustration and moral outrage.

  2. I feel bad for this young woman. I saw a white woman with a tired wrinkled face and a bad limp selling herroin in the park in Tuesday. I called police, but I am sure they did nothing.If you see sketchy behavior, call 911. Police resources are prioritized based on 911 calls. That is the only way the situation in cal Anderson park will change. I have seen people shooting up in the park by the playground multiple times. It is a degrace. If the police enforced the law maybe the addicts would be forced into treatment. Letting them live in the park is helping no one.

    • Not considered worthy of a response by police. The mayor is more concerned with rainbow crosswalks to demonstrate that all are welcome, including junkies, to our fair city.

  3. I once called 911 after a guy shot up on Olive and Summit, began stumbling into traffic, and left his needles and bag of drugs on the sidewalk around midnight on a weeknight. I was actually told by the dispatcher “This is a public health issue, not a police issue. You will have to call someone else”. When I asked who, she told me she wasn’t sure. Messed up. Just messed up.

  4. Nevertheless. Keep calling. With the new policing approach, 911 calls are how they prioritize policing priority locations and staffing levels. Call the mayor and council too.

  5. We also need a more vocal business district. The downtown business association is much more vocal, and as a result, the dealers and junkies were pushed out of downtown up to Capitol Hill. If we don’t push back hard soon, it is going to get very entrenched up here and much worse.