KING COUNTY, WASHINGTON - Today, the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute (ADAI) at the University of Washington published a report showing an increase in heroin-related and cocaine-related deaths in the first half of 2002, following declines in 2001. In the first six months of 2002, there were 48 heroin-related deaths and 49 cocaine-related deaths in King County. These numbers represent a substantial increase from the previous year, when in all of 2001 there were 61 heroin-related deaths and 49 cocaine-related deaths.
The full report, which is prepared twice yearly by the King County Community Epidemiology Work Group, is available on the ADAI website at http://adai.washington.edu. Public Health — Seattle & King County is a participant in this group.
In the last decade, the year with the highest number of heroin-related deaths was 1998 with 143, and the lowest was 2001 with 61 deaths in King County.
"Drug-deaths are tragic and preventable when a person wants treatment but can't access it," said Dr. Alonzo Plough, Director of Public Health — Seattle & King County. "Though increasing numbers of people have access to methadone treatment, the waiting list has also grown. The need for treatment is enormous."
In 2002, Public Health partnered with the City of Seattle to increase funding for and access to methadone treatment. With this funding, an additional 180 individuals were placed in methadone treatment.
Treatment on demand for those that need it is a key recommendation of the Heroin Task Force, a group made up of community stakeholders and policymakers. Formed at the height of the problem, the Heroin Task force released its findings and recommendations in 2001.
Drug use and STDs
Information from Public Health's STD Clinic included in this drug trends report cites that among men who have sex with men the use of methamphetamine is significantly associated with increased number of sexual partners, contracting gonorrhea, and transmitting and acquiring HIV. "We can't let our guard down on the prevention front since we're seeing continued high methamphetamine use among gay and bisexual men, and this use is linked to risky sexual activity and HIV," said Dr. Bob Wood, Director of Public Health's HIV/AIDS Program.
Public Health has greatly intensified its HIV and STD prevention efforts for gay and bisexual men in the past five years. These efforts include expanded STD testing and encouragement of health care providers to counsel and test their patients at risk.
Providing effective and innovative health and disease prevention services for over 1.8 million residents and visitors of King County, Public Health — Seattle & King County works for safer and healthier communities for everyone, every day.