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Drug Trends In King County Show Increase In Heroin Use

Patricia Murphy

Researchers say prescription opiate deaths are lower now than in the past. But opiates are still involved in most overdose deaths among drug users in King County. Heroin use among young people also appears to be on the rise. KUOW's Patricia Murphy reports.


Researchers suspect the upward trend in heroin use is due to a lack of prescription opiate availability on streets.

Caleb Banta–Green is with The University of Washington's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute. He says doctors are prescribing less opiates like oxycodone and methadone. That's leading addicts to use heroin instead.

Banta–Green: "Opiate addiction is often something that people have to deal with for the rest of their lives. It's not something that goes away. Even if they get treatment often people relapse and have to move back to the treatment cycle. The body doesn't know or care whether it's getting oxycodone or heroin — chemically there almost identical inside the body. So if you can't get oxycodone but you can get heroin, you're gonna use heroin."

Banta–Green says much of the increase in heroin use is young adults aged 18 to 29. It's also outside of King County where there are far fewer treatment resources and services like needle exchange and overdose prevention drugs.

I'm Patricia Murphy, KUOW News.

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