Researchers at the University of Washington found that fatal overdoses in Kings County, which includes Seattle, involving prescription-type opiates, declined for the first time in a decade, from 161 in 2009 to 130 in 2010, though they remain the most common drug type involved in overdose deaths. Over half (54 percent) of all fatal drug overdoses involved prescription-type opiates in 2010. A total of 240 deaths were caused by drugs in the county in 2010, according to the Seattle Times.
The newspaper reports that there were 50 fatal heroin overdoses in the county last year, while alcohol was involved in 62 deaths. Cocaine is still a major drug of abuse, contributing to 46 deaths in 2010. A potentially lethal contaminant, Levamisole, was found in two-thirds of cocaine seized by police in the county last year, the article notes.
Lead researcher Caleb Banta-Green found that about 77 percent* of deaths involving prescription opioids in the county also involved alcohol, other prescription drugs and/or illegal drugs.
Banta-Green said his research revealed a high number of young adults using both prescription opioids and heroin. The study found that the number of young adults in treatment programs for heroin in the county grew 74% from 1999 to 2010. A University of Washington news release notes that while the decline in prescription drug deaths is positive, treatment admissions for those addicted to prescription opiates continue to grow and the majority of those treated are young adults ages 18 to 29.
CORRECTIONS: We previously reported that illegal drugs caused more death than prescription opioids in the Seattle area for the first time in a decade, but that statement was incorrect and has been updated in the above article. *The number previously reported was 85 percent, but it is actually 77 percent.