Young people in Washington are especially vulnerable to drug abuse. Almost 64 percent of people seeking treatment for substance use disorders in Washington were under age 30. Young people socialize, use drugs and alcohol, and have more free time than adults, so they run a higher risk of drug addiction than older people.
Washingtonians have fallen victim to several drug epidemics. Methamphetamine, heroin, opioid, cannabis and alcohol abuse are all common in Washington state. The state is also a major market for illegal heroin and methamphetamines.
Washington is a major market for illegally imported drugs. Western Washington lies on the I-5 corridor, which is a conduit for drugs imported from Mexico and Canada. Puget Sound’s busy ports and international airport are also entry points or distribution hubs for drugs from Central America and Asia.
In 2010, the Department of Ecology reported 92 meth incidents in Washington.
In 2015, there were 123 licensed marijuana retailers in the state of Washington.
“Teenagers are given oversupplies of Vicodin for things like wisdom teeth extractions. People take them all because they figure, ‘Gee, if a doctor prescribed it, it must be safe.’”
All opiates are chemically similar. An opiate user can replace habitual use of one opiate with another and suffer few, if any, withdrawal symptoms. Opioids such as Oxycontin are expensive and hard to obtain.
Even illicit prescription opioids must be bought or stolen from a legal source. Heroin, on the other hand, is cheap. It’s available on the streets of most towns in America. For a patient whose prescription has run out, maintaining a heroin habit can be an appealing option in spite of the dangers. Heroin can diminish chronic pain and the ravages of opiate withdrawal.
So some opiate users make the switch. In 2011 — the beginning of the state crackdown on overprescription, when opioid users had fewer incentives to switch — 39 percent of heroin injectors in Seattle said they were dependent on prescription opiates before they began using heroin.
Washington is unique among the primary centers of the opioid crisis. It’s been through this before, during the heroin boom of the late 1990s. But even veterans of that awful time are staggered by the scope and lethal severity of the current heroin addiction epidemic.
“It just seems today that there’s so much more out there, so many more people,” Dan Manus told The New York Times. “It feels nonstop.”
Manus is a first responder in Seattle. He’s a recovering drug addict himself.
Manus’s shock is frightening. He’s a man who’s presumably seen it all. But his example also provides hope. He’s been in recovery for 25 years. He spends his days saving the lives of other drug addicts and helping them find treatment.
Maybe some of the people Manus revives with naloxone will be able to follow his example. Maybe they’ll pull themselves up from rock bottom. And then, maybe they’ll help someone else.
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