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Drug-caused deaths rise in King County


The negative effects of drug abuse impacted more King County residents in 2006 then in previous years. In the past decade, accidental drug-caused deaths went up 56%, according to Caleb Banta-Green, research scientist at the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute and lead author of a recent report on drug trends in King County.

The increase was driven primarily by deaths due to prescription-type opiates; the majority of these were in combination with alcohol, other prescription-type drugs, or illegal drugs. Also of note is the continued high level of cocaine deaths, which in 2006 continue to be disproportionately among African Americans.

Cocaine deaths are also notable because of the large proportion that involved a single drug -- 40%, up from an average of about 20% in recent years, with most of the single drug deaths occurring among older, African American men.

Other findings from the report include:

Adult treatment admissions are up for cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana and prescription-type opiates from 1999 to 2006, with a 21% increase in the rate of adult treatment admissions.

Treatment admissions and drug overdose deaths involving heroin dropped slightly in 2006, however heroin treatment admissions are second only to cocaine among the illegal drugs.

Methamphetamine indicators appear to be leveling off in King County.

Law enforcement seizures of MDMA entering the US from Canada via Washington are at record high levels, exceeding 5,000,000 doses in 2006.

There are indications of a recent decrease in the prevalence of hepatitis B and C and a continued low prevalence of HIV among 18 - 30 year old Seattle-area injection drug users.

The Seattle King-County Drug Trends report is updated yearly by researchers at the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, in collaboration with experts from public health, drug treatment, local and federal law enforcement, and street outreach workers. The complete report is available on the publications page of the ADAI at

A related report detailing prescription opiate abuse patterns in Washington State was released in March 2007, and can be found on the ADAI website above.


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