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Addiction Facts about Tacoma Washington You Need to Know

Addiction Facts about Tacoma Washington You Need to Know

According to a recent editorial in the Tacoma News Tribune, “prescription drug and heroin abuse are rampant” in the area. In that regard, the City of Tacoma, Pierce County, and Washington State are like the rest of the United States. There IS good news—Tacoma’s statistics pertaining to drug abuse, addiction, and overdose have not yet reached the highest levels found in other regions of the nation, especially the Midwest and the East Coast. But the bad news is that the city, the county, and the state still face considerable challenges in regards to the abuse of alcohol, illicit drugs, and prescription medications.

Addiction Facts for Tacoma, Washington

The demand for illicit drugs in Tacoma remains constant, but the specific drugs of abuse are cyclical – 15 years ago, Tacoma’s biggest drug problem is caused by methamphetamines, but today, the threat primarily comes from methamphetamines, heroin, and prescription opioid painkillers. General Addiction Facts:

  • 2002-2004 versus 2011-2013, publicly-funded drug and alcohol treatment admissions in Pierce County rose over 152%.
  • 2012-2014, approximately 6-and-a-half percent of Pierce County residents 18-25 abused/were dependent on illicit drugs, and nearly 14% of abused/were dependent on alcohol.
  • Among 12-17-year-olds, those percentages were almost 4% and just over 3%, respectively.
  • For ages 26 and over, the rates are slightly over 2% and nearly 7%.
  • Among Pierce County high school seniors, 6% have used an illicit drug within the past 30 days.
  • Drug use equates to lower grades – 51% of Tacoma-area high school students who use illegal drugs report C’s, D’s, or F’s.

Prescription Opioid Facts:

  • In 2002, 129 people in Pierce County sought treatment for opioid addiction.
  • By 2015, that number had risen to 438 – an increase of 340%.
  • Almost 9% of Pierce County residents age 18-25 used pain relievers non-medically within the past year.
  • Among residents 12-17 and 26+, that percentage is nearly 6% and exactly 4%, respectively.
  • 6% of Tacoma-area high school seniors used a prescription opioid to get high within the past month.
  • Across Washington State, the 45-54 demographic suffers the most prescription drug overdoses.
  • From 2002-2004 to 2011-2013, the rate of opioid deaths in Pierce County rose by 32%.

Heroin Addiction Facts:

  • Statewide, heroin treatment admissions have tripled since 2002.
  • From 2008 to 2014, the number of heroin deaths doubled.
  • The 25-34 demographic has the highest rate of fatal heroin overdoses.
  • However, between 2004 and 2014, the largest increase in the rate of fatal heroin overdoses was in the 15-34 demographic.
  • Three-quarters of intravenous drug abusers have Hepatitis C.
  • 4 out of 5 heroin addicts were first addicted to opioid painkillers.

Methamphetamine Addiction Facts:

  • Area methamphetamine seizures remain high – in December 2016, 44 pounds of meth were seized in South Sound. This follows a 30-pound meth seizure the previous month.
  • Statewide, meth is the second-most-mentioned drug in calls to the HelpLine.
  • Among all illicit drugs, methamphetamine contributes the most to violent crime.
  • In 2014 – for the first time – methamphetamine became the most-commonly-detected illicit drug in police evidence testing.
  • 25% of heroin addicts use “goofballs” a combination of heroin and methamphetamines.

Alcohol Addiction Facts:

  • 17% of Pierce County adults engaged in binge-drinking within the past month.
  • Nearly 21% of County residents 18-29 binge-drink – a higher rate than any other demographic.
  • The 65+ demographic has the lowest rate of binge-drinking – just 5%.
  • Conversely, the 65+ demographic has the HIGHEST rate of “heavy drinking” – almost 6%.
  • 28% of Pierce County high school seniors report drinking within the past 30 days.
  • This is down significantly from 42% reported in 2004.
  • 16% of Pierce County high school seniors engaged in binge-drinking within the past month.
  • Again, this is much lower than 25% between 2004 and 2010.
  • Discouragingly, however, 10% of high school seniors in the Tacoma area admitted to driving after drinking, and 16% rode with another driver who had been drinking.
  • Alcohol is a contributing factor in 45% of driving deaths in the Tacoma area.

Marijuana Abuse Facts:

  • Over 36% of residents 18-25 and more than 8% of 12-17-year-olds used marijuana within the past year – both percentages are significantly higher than the national average. The 26+ demographic is almost 16%.
  • Within the 18-25 demographic, 17% use marijuana weekly and 6% are daily users.
  • Statewide in 2015, 33% of DUI arrestees tested positive for marijuana.
  • That percentage was just 18% in 2009.
  • According to the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission, drivers with active THC in their blood who were involved in a driving fatality increased 122% 2010-2014.
  • Despite that, 62% of drivers believe that marijuana does not impair their ability to drive.
  • In 2010, adolescents/teenagers age 12-17 accounted for 29% of all marijuana seizures. By 2014, that percentage had skyrocketed to 74%.
  • 68% of 12th-graders say marijuana is “easy to get”.
  • 25% of Pierce County high school seniors admit to using marijuana within the past 30 days.
  • 43% of area seniors feel there is little to no risk to daily marijuana use.
  • The statistics say otherwise – 70% of youth treatment admissions are for marijuana.

Why Is It Important to Know Addiction Facts About Tacoma, Washington?

Understanding the true magnitude of the substance abuse problem in Washington State (in general) and Tacoma (in particular) is a necessary weapon to combat this epidemic. Knowing exactly which intoxicants are being misused most often can help you remain vigilant as you try to protect those closest to you from the dangers of substance abuse and the insidious disease of addiction.

Signs of Drug Abuse to Watch For

Ongoing substance abuse – whether in the form of illicit drug addiction, the misuse of prescription medications, or alcoholism – can result in profound mental, physical, emotional, and behavioral changes in the user. Concerned family members can learn how to recognize these changes, and, more importantly, learn how to take proactive steps to intervene and find the treatment and support that their loved one needs.

  • Mood swings
  • Changes in personality
  • Confusion
  • Incoherence
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Lack of appetite
  • Inattention to grooming or dress
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Abnormal sleeping patterns
  • Unreliability
  • Uncharacteristic secrecy – hiding text messages or phone calls
  • Spending increasing amounts of time alone
  • Social withdrawal
  • Disinterest in hobbies or other activities that were formerly enjoyed
  • Ignoring family obligations
  • Poor school or work performance—absenteeism, suspensions, disciplinary actions, etc.
  • Change in friends
  • Unexplained missing money or valuables
  • Unpaid bills—utility cut-off notices, repossessions, etc.
  • Drug paraphernalia—prescription/alcohol bottles, syringes, lighters, glass or metal pipes
  • Legal consequences—DUI’s, Public Intoxication charges, fines, etc.
  • Relationship difficulties—divorce, separation, domestic violence, or Child Protective Services involvement

What Do I Do If a Loved One is Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol?

If you feel that someone in your family may be struggling with alcohol and/or drugs, then for their sake, and for the sake of yourself and your family, confidence or compel them to enter a professional addiction recovery program. With timely intervention and effective, evidence-based treatment, it IS possible to return to a sober, serene, and stable life.


2014 Washington State Healthy Youth Report 2014 Washington Behavioral Health Barometer, prepared for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Opioid Trends across Washington State (April 2015), prepared by the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute