“…we must do more on chemical dependency treatment. That means asking the tough questions about how we improve our response to this national heroin epidemic and the resulting property crime and disorder.” ~ Seattle Mayor Ed Murray Although it never really left, heroin is making a terrifying comeback in the state of Washington, particularly in the Seattle/King County area. The problem is so severe, that recently, a task force of local experts was put together to find a solution to the “epidemic” of heroin and prescription opiate abuse. King County Executive Dow Constantine had this to say, “Addiction to heroin and prescription painkillers is devastating families in every one of our communities – sparing no age, race, neighborhood, or income level.”
How Bad Is the Problem of Heroin Addiction in Seattle, WA?
To understand why this problem has reached crisis levels, one only has to look at the current numbers. Without exaggeration, they paint a sobering picture –
- In 2014, there were over 150 heroin-related deaths in King County.
- This is the highest total in two decades.
- The number of fatal overdose deaths due to opiates in 2014 is three times King County’s 2009 total.
- Treatment admissions in Seattle listing heroin as the primary drug have doubled since 2010.
- Even more telling, treatment admissions for heroin in Seattle/King County increased 32% from 2013 to 2014.
- The number of Seattle treatment admissions for heroin is higher than any other drug since 1999.
- Heroin is the most-mentioned drug during emergency Help Line calls.
Local law enforcement deals with this problem on a daily basis. King County Sheriff John Urquhart says, “Heroin use and overdoses have continued to plague King County, just like the rest of the country – and the rising use by teenagers is particularly troubling. We must work together to find a way to reduce this killer drug.” Today, heroin in Washington State remains a serious problem. In fact, it is one of the state’s top concerns. Heroin continues to be one of the most commonly mentioned drugs in police reports state-wide. Overdose deaths are up, and Seattle remains a hotspot for heroin use. It’s safe to say that the Seattle heroin problem is not going to go away on its own. If you live in Seattle, WA, and you use heroin, you need to learn more about this issue.
What is Heroin?
Many people don’t realize that heroin was once a legal drug. It was used medicinally to control pain. Its addictive nature made it into the drug we know today. Not only is heroin highly addictive, but it is also illegal. Millions of people across the world use heroin every day. Heroin is made from the resin of the opium poppy plant. It is refined into morphine, which is then made into heroin. People continue to use heroin in fear of experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they stop. For those with addictions, they can’t imagine their lives without heroin. On the street, heroin is sold in different forms. It can come in a powdered form, which is very fine in texture. This type of heroin tends to be either white or a light tan color. Typically, heroin will be mixed with other substances to decrease its purity. This allows the people selling it to make more money. It’s also possible to find Black Tar Heroin. True to its name, Black Tar Heroin has a dark color, and it is very sticky in its consistency. This type of heroin is not pure, and it is usually injected.
How is Heroin Used?
Heroin can be used in a few different ways. Most people who use heroin will inject it into their veins. This is why track marks on the arms is almost a sure sign of a being a heroin addict. Heroin can also be snorted, sniffed or smoked. The way people use heroin differs from person to person. Also, if the drug is more pure, it is more likely to be injected. Injecting heroin results in a high that is almost instant. The first high from heroin is also the best high. People often begin using heroin because they were using prescription drugs first. These individuals are used to snorting their medications to increase the intensity of the high. For this reason, a first-time user of heroin is very likely to try snorting it. Eventually, people usually graduate to injecting it as time goes on.
Heroin Short-Term and Long-Term Effects
Heroin has effects on the user after the very first time taking this drug. It is very powerful, and the effects of it tend to get worse as use continues. The short-term effects of heroin use include:
- Experiencing severe itching all over the body
- Having clouded mental functioning
- Feeling of heaviness in the arms and legs
- Getting a dry mouth
- Having trouble staying awake
The long-term effects of heroin use include:
- Collapsed veins from injecting heroin repeatedly
- Getting an infection in the lining of the heart
- Lung problems, including lung infections and pneumonia
- Sexual dysfunction for men
- Mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety
Continued abuse of heroin is a very serious problem. If it is allowed to continue, it will result in a heroin addiction. In Seattle, problems with heroin are an ongoing issue. So many people don’t realize how dangerous this drug really is.
Why is Heroin Addictive?
Heroin is so addictive for a number of reasons. First and foremost, heroin has been shown to kill brain cells with regular use. Someone who has experienced this might feel the need to use heroin often in an attempt to combat this. As heroin use continues, it becomes a necessity. This is what results in addiction. Also, heroin has been shown to increase serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain. As this happens, the brain stops making these “feel good” chemicals on its own. Without heroin, regular users start to go through withdrawal from not having it. They lack the amount of dopamine and serotonin their brains need to feel like themselves. In this way, heroin is also very addictive. People feel like they need it to feel normal.
Why Is There Such an Increase of Heroin Abuse in Seattle?
There are two main reasons why heroin abuse is skyrocketing in the Seattle area. First, the legalization of marijuana has played a big part. Because adults can purchase cannabis for their own personal recreational use, the market for illegal marijuana has plummeted. Mexican drug cartels that formerly concentrated on marijuana cultivation have, by necessity, began focusing on other drugs, primarily heroin, and to a lesser degree, methamphetamines. Now, many of the marijuana fields are growing opium poppies that can later be manufactured into heroin that is extremely pure and potent. They find a ready and enthusiastic market for that heroin in Seattle/King County, because of the second reason. Just as it was elsewhere in the country, the abuse of prescription opiate painkiller medication in Seattle became a major problem in recent years. At one point, there were enough pain pill prescriptions written in the United States to provide every adult in the country with their own personal bottle of pills. Law enforcement and healthcare officials responded– by changing prescribing practices, creating databases that discouraged “shopping” doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions, and creating take-back days that got unused prescriptions out of homes. The efforts to curb prescription painkiller abuse and overdoses have been largely successful, at least on the surface–
- Deaths due to prescription opioids are at their lowest point in 10 years.
- Treatment admissions in Seattle for prescription opioid abuse have declined 27% since 2010.
But, while prescription deaths are down, heroin deaths are up. People who are or have been addicted to pain pills are now finding them harder to come by, both in terms of availability and affordability. Heroin feeds their addiction while solving both problems. Flooding in from Mexico, heroin is easily found by anyone really looking. It’s also much cheaper – an 80 mg tablet of oxycodone can cost a desperate substance abuser over $80, but the same effects can be felt by a dose of heroin that only costs $20.
Can Heroin Addiction be Treated?
A heroin addiction can be treated, and this is good news for the Seattle drug problem. The issue is that people usually feel like they can stop using on their own, when and if they’re ready. This couldn’t be further from the truth, of course. Stopping heroin on your own can result in dangerous withdrawal symptoms. It could even result in a heroin overdose if you relapse. This is why professional treatment at a heroin rehab is so highly recommended. Treating a heroin addiction is not hard. However, each patient needs to receive personalized treatment in order for it to be effective. This might include the following recommendations:
- Drug detox that allows the body to go through withdrawal in an environment where symptoms can be controlled.
- Medications like Suboxone and Subutex, which can help with heroin addiction recovery.
- An inpatient heroin rehab that allows patients to work on the reasons behind their addictions.
- Counseling sessions that involve different types of behavioral therapies to aid in recovery.
- Ongoing outpatient treatment that includes group therapy and counseling.
- Possible involvement in a Narcotics Anonymous group after inpatient treatment has ended.
If you’re addicted to heroin, please don’t ignore the problem. Doing so is only going to make the situation much worse. Your addiction isn’t going to go away on its own. If you try to stop by yourself, you could be putting yourself at risk for a fatal overdose.
What Can Be Done for Someone Addicted to Heroin in Seattle, Washington?
As with any substance abuse disorder, an addiction to heroin requires professional treatment – starting with detox, continuing with inpatient drug rehab, and usually requiring long-term outpatient care, typically through a methadone maintenance plan. Although they are not life-threatening, the symptoms of withdrawal from heroin are extremely unpleasant, and many people say that heroin is among the hardest drugs to quit. For this reason, the professional support you choose is extremely important. For the best results, you should look for a facility that specializes in both detox from heroin and inpatient treatment, and that offers comprehensive strategies that addresses the disease of addiction on multiple levels. Northpoint Recovery is just such a place. As the region’s #1 drug detox and rehabilitation facility, we can be your go-to resource when you or someone you care about has been abusing heroin. No matter how bad your situation is, help and hope is there for the asking.