“Across our state, we are seeing the terrible effects of heroin and prescription narcotics on our families, friends, and communities. Although more must be done, we’ve made significant progress… and with healthcare reform, a record number of families who just a few years ago had no medical coverage and limited means to regain their health, can now seek treatment for substance abuse disorders.”
~Washington Governor Jay Inslee
What are Substance and Alcohol Abuse?
Substance abuse and alcohol abuse are common problems in the State of Washington. Of course, they are also rampant and widespread in the United States as a whole, as well.
Washington State drug abuse statistics are clear that we have a significant problem in our state. In fact, the problem is actually much worse in Washington than in other parts of the country.
Substance abuse refers to the use of any drug – illegal or legal – that is contradictory to its specified use. What this means is whenever you use a drug outside of how it should be used, this is substance abuse.
Any use at all – even one time – of an illegal drug like heroin or cocaine is considered substance abuse. When you look at opiate abuse statistics by state, it’s clear that we have an opiate epidemic on our hands. These drugs are perfectly legal, yet they are abused all the time. In fact, opioid abuse rates just keep climbing, year after year.
The difference between substance abuse and addiction is that abusing drugs does not mean compulsive behaviors. A substance abuser doesn’t feel the need to use substances. He or she does it to feel good, and enjoy the drug’s effects. However, that individual can just as easily walk away from it at any time.
Alcohol abuse is similar to substance abuse, but it involves alcohol only. Even so, when you look at the drug abuse statistics by state, alcohol is at the top of the list.
Alcohol is the most widely abused substance in the State of Washington. This is probably the case because of a number of different reasons. These include:
- The fact that alcohol is so easy to get
- The fact that alcohol is readily available almost everywhere
- Alcohol is much cheaper than some other types of substances
- Alcohol is socially acceptable
- Alcohol is thought to be safe because of the other reasons on this list
Someone who is abusing alcohol is probably doing so without realizing the dangers of it. People know that it’s possible to become an alcoholic, but they don’t think it will ever happen to them. They falsely assume that alcoholism is something that happens to other people. However, alcoholism always begins with alcohol abuse.
Alcohol abuse can look like a number of different scenarios. These include binge drinking on the weekend, or drinking heavily throughout the week.
When substance abuse or alcohol abuse are not stopped, they will lead to addiction eventually. This has been shown time and time again. It is evidenced many times when you look at the drug use statistics by state.
Substance Abuse in the U.S.
Over the last several years, substance abuse in the United States has grown to astounding levels. When you look at drug abuse statistics state by state, it’s incredible to see how big the problem has become.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:
The use of substances (including alcohol) costs more than $740 billion a year. These costs are related to lost work productivity, health care and crime.
- By 2013, it was estimated that 6 million Americans had used an illicit drug in the last month.
- This statistic include people ages 12 and older.
- This is an increase from 8.3% of Americans to 9.4% of Americans.
- Marijuana is responsible for much of this increase.
- In 2013, there were close to 20 million users of marijuana in the United States.
- When you look at opiate abuse statistics state by state, 5 million people had abused them in the last month.
- 3 million Americans had used hallucinogens like Ecstasy and LSD in the last month.
- 5 million people admitted to being past month users of cocaine in 2013.
- During that same year, there were 595,000 current meth users.
- The number of new users of illicit drugs was 8 million, or 7,800 per day.
- Over half of these were under the age of 18.
Of course, these statistics could go on and on. The bottom line is that the country has a serious substance abuse problem. It doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.
Alcohol Abuse in the U.S.
Alcohol abuse is at an all-time high in the United States. When you look at drug use statistics by county, the numbers are astounding enough. When you look at drug use in the U.S., alcohol is always the most common substance.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism tells us that:
- In 2015, more than 86% of people ages 18 and older admitted to having at least one drink.
- More than 70% of them admitted to drinking during the last year.
- 56% of these individuals reported drinking during the last month.
- Almost 27% of people who were ages 18 or older reported binge drinking in the last 30 days.
- 7% admitted to heavy alcohol use in the last month.
- Just over 15 million adults over 18 years old had alcohol use disorder.
- This included 9.8 million men and 5.3 million women.
- Unfortunately, only 1.3 million of these adults went to alcohol rehab in 2015.
As you can see, alcohol abuse is just as prevalent as substance abuse. The biggest problem with alcohol abuse is that most people don’t see it as a problem. They live their lives in denial until their alcoholism becomes uncontrollable.
Most Commonly Abused Substances in the U.S.
There are some substances that are more popular than others in the United States. Many of these are popular due to their accessibility alone. The most commonly abused substances in the U.S. include:
- Medical marijuana
- K2 or Spice
- Opioid prescription drugs
- Prescription stimulants
- Prescription depressants
- Codeine (used to make Purple Drank or Sizzurp)
- DMX cold medicines
People who abuse these substances often don’t believe they’re doing any harm to themselves. This is especially true because so many of them are prescribed, available over the counter, or socially acceptable. They are perceived as being safe.
More often than not, people who continually use these substances end up with addictions. Until more people recognize the risks involved with using them, addiction rates are likely to continue climbing.
Washington State Drug Abuse Statistics
Substance abuse in the State of Washington – in the form of drug addiction and alcoholism – is a serious problem that affects everyone in the state. As it is elsewhere in the United States, addiction knows no boundaries – every age group, every income level, and every race is affected.
Knowledge is the key to dealing with what the Centers for Disease Control has termed “an epidemic”. For an individual or family in crisis, there are a number of measures that can be taken:
- Proactive prevention through education
- Professional intervention
- Substance-specific detox
- Inpatient drug and alcohol rehab
- Intensive outpatient rehab
- Long-term aftercare
Fortunately, research about drug and alcohol abuse in the State of Washington is much more current than is generally available at the federal level. Tom McClellan, former deputy drug czar for President Barack Obama and current CEO of Treatment Research Institute, says, “The State of Washington has by far the best and the most comprehensive and the most up-to-date statistics, way better than the national government.”
To know which level of service as appropriate for your situation, it is first necessary to know the extent of the drug problem in Washington. Here are some applicable statistics –
When community leaders, law enforcement officials, and mental health professionals recently got together, the goal was to focus on solutions to the problems that substance abuse causes in every community in the state of Washington.
Brad Finegood, the Assistant Division Director of the King County Department of Human Services, Behavioral Health and Recovery Division, said “It is important to be able to provide treatment on demand, to people when they need treatment, where they need treatment, with the best treatment available. People do recover, and treatment works.”
- Between 2009 and 2013, about 3% of Washington residents over the age of 12 were dependent upon illicit drugs within the past year.
- That percentage calculates to approximately 167,000 people per year.
- More than 13% of all annual deaths in the state are attributable to alcohol-or-drug-related causes.
- According to the 2014 Washington Behavioral Health Barometer, 5% of Washington adolescents aged 12-17 have used illicit drugs within the past year.
- This number translates to about 60,000 adolescents per year.
- This is significantly higher than the percentage for adolescent drug use in the US as a whole, 2%.
- More than half– 54%– of those people who are enrolled in substance abuse treatment in Washington are there for treatment for both drug and alcohol use.
- More than 90% of people who are dependent upon alcohol or drugs in Washington at any given time have not received treatment within the past year.
As it is in the rest of the world, alcohol is the most-abused substance in Washington. David Albert, an analyst for the Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse, says, “It needs to be recognized that by far the biggest drug problem in the state is alcohol.”
- Approximately 6% of all Washington residents aged 12 or older abused or were dependent upon alcohol within the past year.
- This is slightly higher than the rate for the rest of the US – 7%.
- That number translates to over 429,000 people per year.
- Almost 20% of people enrolled in substance abuse treatment in Washington were there for alcohol abuse only.
- In 2012 and 2013, just over one-third of all traffic deaths in the State of Washington were caused by drunk driving.
- According to the 2014 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey, more than 5000 Washington residents under the age of 21 die annually because of alcohol-related car crashes, murders, suicides, and other accidents.
- Among high-school seniors, 23% self-report that their alcohol use is “heavy” or a “problem”.
- Nearly 1 in 11 Washington adolescents 12-17–7%– try alcohol for the first time each year.
- Education, prevention, and intervention work – underage binge-drinking in Washington is down to 5%, from a high of 18.9% in 2009-2010.
- This is still higher than the US rate of 7%.
In 2012, the State of Washington legalized cannabis sales, to the delight of many who equated marijuana use with drinking, calling it a personal recreational activity that should be available to all adults of legal age. However, extending the analogy means that increased marijuana availability and usage means increased problems, including addiction – again, just like alcohol.
A new study put out by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reveals that “marijuana use disorder” is a common problem in the US, and because it goes largely untreated, is associated with other addictions, behavioral/mental problems, and even disability.
The Director of the NIAAA, Dr. George F. Koob, PhD, says, “The new analysis complements previous population-level studies…that show that marijuana use can lead to harmful consequences for individuals and society.”
- Approximately one-quarter of all drug treatment admissions in Washington are for marijuana.
- In 2014, 70% of all marijuana admissions in Washington were male.
- Nearly half of all treatment admissions for marijuana are under the age of 18 – this is the highest proportion for any drug.
- Marijuana is cited as the second drug of choice for 33% of alcohol abusers and 28% of methamphetamine users.
- Just under 6% of Washington adolescents 12-17 try marijuana for the first time each year.
- Among Washington high-school seniors, 27% self-report use of marijuana within the past 30 days.
- A decade ago, that number was less than 19%.
- 10% of high-school seniors in the State of Washington used marijuana at least 10 days within the past month, up from 6%.
- When testing blood samples from 2014 DUI cases, 33% tested positive for marijuana.
- That is a significant increase from the 19% of positive tests before legalization.
The increase in incidents of driving after marijuana use is particularly worrisome. Shelley Baldwin, of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, says, “What we see that in 2014, we had a fairly good spike in marijuana involvement in crashes… It’s telling me that people are using and driving.”
Health agencies across the state recently gathered together a group of substance abuse experts, healthcare providers, and public health officials, in order to create a response strategy to combat Washington’s opioid epidemic.
Dr. Gary Franklin, the Medical Director at the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, says this about painkillers: “These are powerful drugs that should be prescribed cautiously, using the lowest dose for the shortest amount of time necessary.”
- In 2014, deaths from prescription drugs has decreased – from a high of 512 in 2008 to 319 in 2014, according to records from the state’s vital statistics department.
- Publicly-funded drug treatment programs saw a nearly 200% increase in admissions where opioids were the primary drug.
- 38 out of 39 Washington counties saw an increase in opioid admissions.
- Overall annual deaths from all opioids has remained steady – approximately 600 per year.
- The 45-54-year-old age group sees the most deaths due to prescription narcotics overdoses.
- More than 1 in 25 Washington adolescents 12-17–1%– abuse prescription medications for the first time each year.
- Among high-school seniors, 6% self-reported using prescription drugs within the past month to get high.
Because it is cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription opiate medications, the abuse of heroin – and related deaths – have risen significantly within the State of Washington over the past 10 years.
Renton Mayor Denis Law recently said, “Heroin abuse is impacting every community in the region, and we need to work together to try and develop a sustainable solution to this rapidly-growing crisis.”
- From 2002 to 2012, drug treatment admissions for heroin as the primary drug nearly tripled –from 2647 to 7500.
- More than one in five treatment admissions in Washington are for heroin.
- In 2014, 293 people died due to heroin overdoses.
- This was approximately twice the number of deaths in 2008.
- The highest heroin death rate is in the 25-34-year-old-age group.
- However, over the last decade, 2004-2004, the 15-34-year-old age group saw the largest increase in heroin overdose deaths.
- In 2014, King County had the most heroin-related deaths that it had seen in 20 years.
Legalized marijuana has had an unfortunate side effect – Mexican drug cartels, in an effort to react to shrinking profits from marijuana have begun producing much more heroin and methamphetamines.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, most of the methamphetamines in Washington come from Mexico and are of extremely high quality.
The Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area states that methamphetamines have the highest “prevalence and association with violent crime and property crimes” in the State of Washington. NW HIDTA also says that, along with heroin, meth is the state’s “greatest drug threat”.
The Director of NW HIDTA, Dave Rodriguez, says, “I think meth is still the drug that’s most well-entrenched.”
- In 2014, methamphetamine became the most common drug in police evidence testing for the first time ever.
- Meth is the second-most-mentioned drug in Help Line emergency calls.
- Meth is the drug most-often used in combination with heroin, abused by 24% of heroin addicts.
- In the Seattle/King County area – Washington’s largest city and county – methamphetamine-related deaths have skyrocketed almost 500% since 2010.
The good news is that cocaine abuse in Washington is down. The bad news is that it hasn’t gone away completely – patterns of use have merely morphed.
- In 2014, cocaine was the third-most-common drug detected in police evidence.
- Since 2010, treatment admissions for cocaine in Washington are down 55%, making it the least common major drug.
- It is also abused by the oldest demographic – 60% of individuals admitted for cocaine treatment are over the age of 45.
- In 2014, 60% of cocaine deaths also involved heroin.
A Few Words about Synthetic Drug Abuse in WA
“Synthetic marijuana products are very dangerous drugs. We don’t know what’s in them, they’re not tested for safety or efficacy, and the effects are entirely unpredictable. Of all the abused drugs out on the market, synthetic marijuana scares me the most.”
~Dr. Alexander Garrad, Clinical Managing Director of the Washington Poison Center
When discussing the substance abuse problem in Washington, many people tend to overlook so-called “designer drugs” – synthetic intoxicants specifically designed to circumvent anti-drug legislation and testing.
These products are usually sold openly in places like convenience stores at truck stops, under other, misleading names – Spice, Paradise, K2, or Serenity – and labeled as air fresheners, jewelry cleaners, potpourri, and the like.
Because Washington legalized marijuana back in 2012, there is not the overwhelming rush of emergency calls due to synthetic drugs, like you might see on the East Coast. However, these dangerous chemical concoctions are still a problem the state of Washington, particularly to two demographic groups.
First, synthetic drugs are often abused by people in jobs where drug testing is required – around military bases in Spokane, Olympia, or Tacoma, for example. Commercial drivers also are potential abusers.
Most drug tests will not detect synthetic drugs. Even when the test can register accurate results, the formulation of the drugs changes so rapidly that the test is soon rendered obsolete.
Secondly, and more alarming, because synthetic drugs are typically sold out in the open, masquerading as other innocuous products, they are readily available to young people. Anyone can buy a product labeled “potpourri” or “cleaner”.
What Do All of These Statistics Tell Us about Drug Addiction in Washington State?
Any way you look at it, alcoholism and drug addiction in Washington is a pervasive problem that affects hundreds of thousands of state residence. It is almost a certainty that someone you know or love has a problem with alcohol, illicit drugs, or prescription medications.
Maybe that person is YOU.
Signs of Substance or Alcohol Abuse/Addiction
It’s fairly uncommon for people to be unaware of addiction or alcoholism. Actually, people often don’t even realize when they’re abusing drugs or alcohol either. This might be the situation you’re currently facing.
It might be helpful to know more about the signs of substance and alcohol abuse, alcoholism and drug addiction. You can look for any of these signs in your own life.
The signs of substance and alcohol abuse, alcoholism and addiction include:
- Becoming tolerant to the effects of the substances you’re currently using. This means you need more to achieve the desired effect.
- Feeling odd when the drug or alcohol wears off. This is also known as withdrawal symptoms.
- Being unable to stop yourself from using, even if you don’t want to.
- Thinking about your substance of choice constantly.
- Losing interest in things that you once enjoyed
- Having problems taking care of daily tasks and responsibilities.
- Driving or doing other dangerous tasks while you’re under the influence.
- Borrowing or stealing money to be able to pay for substances.
- Having problems with interpersonal relationships.
- Sleeping too little or too much when compared to your normal sleeping patterns.
- Experiencing a change in your appearance for the worse.
- Spending time with new people who all use drugs or alcohol.
Do any of these apply to you? If they do, you may already have a serious problem on your hands. It’s important to understand whether you’re battling substance abuse or addiction. Knowing this will help you realize the next steps you should be taking to stop using.
Do you have questions about drug and alcohol abuse and how it has affected your life? Do you need to get more information about alcohol and drug treatment? Either way, we’d love to help you. Please contact us right away.
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