How Seattle is Battling the Drug Addiction Epidemic

April 6, 2018 6:16am

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Back in August of last year, it was widely reported that 2016 statistics showed two-thirds of drug-related deaths cited opioids as the cause. Last year, over 80% of heroin addicts in Washington state had previously been prescribed opioids by their doctors – they became addicted to their prescriptions, and subsequently moved onto heroin as those addictions took a deadly grip.

Fentanyl, for example, one of the opioids most abused nationwide, continues to cause a steady rise in overdoses year-on-year in Seattle, and it is now starting to appear in various newer forms, such as counterfeit oxycodone tablets and synthetic fentanyl, also manufactured illegally.

These stats may appear frightening simply because they are, yet they are only a mirror to the rest of the U.S. as authorities strive to deal with this very real epidemic. The big question for the citizens of Seattle, and those of the entire Washington state, is this:

How are cities like Seattle battling this seemingly out-of-control epidemic, where, as ever, the youngest in our society are the most at risk?

Seattle: The First U.S. City with a Safe-Injection Facility

With ongoing funding presenting hurdles, Seattle still hopes to open the country’s first safe-injection facility later this year. The facility is seen by Seattle’s Housing, Health, Energy and Working Rights committee as the first step towards treatment for many addicts who feel they simply cannot bring an end to their respective addictions.

Although similar programs have emerged successfully on a global scale, and actually reduced the number of fatal overdoses in those countries, opposition to the safe-injection facility in Seattle remains strong: “We need to stigmatize the people hooked on heroin who refuse to go into treatment, to save their lives,” says Washington State Senator Mark Miloscia.

In fact, on March 14, 2018, Snohomish county voted on and passed legislation to permanently ban any future supervised safe-injection sites within their given authority.

New Legislation to Provide Medication-Assisted Treatment for Seattle’s Opioid Addicts

Senate Bill 6150 and House Bill 2489 are two new pieces of legislation requested by Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, which aim to fight addiction by treating it as a medical condition rather than a choice. It involves the creation of six new regional networks to connect affected communities and healthcare professionals to a central “hub” that provides medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for substance addiction.

Rep. Eileen Cody, D-Seattle, the chair of the House Health Care & Wellness Committee who sponsored the House bill, said evidence shows that MAT is an effective approach to what is called opioid-use disorder, and would provide easier access to a drug rehab center in Washington for the state’s residents, if required.

I think the opioid crisis helped the society at large to understand that addiction is not a failing of a personality,” Cody said. “We should treat it as any other chronic disease, not just as some human making bad choices.”

Costing around $8.9 million a year to implement, with additional funding from marijuana taxes, the bills include a first-in-the-nation initiative to provide MAT to offenders in jail.

A Myth Debunked: Addiction Treatment is Affordable

Washington state officials currently estimate that around 90% of its residents who meet the criteria for substance abuse disorder are actually not receiving the services they need, and one of the biggest myths surrounding such treatment is that it is unaffordable to the majority of those.

It is true to an extent that drug rehab isn’t cheap, because it isn’t; however, there are many options and professional services available to those with health insurance, including rehab. Health insurance companies are required by law to provide treatment services for people who are attempting to recover from a substance abuse disorder.

Recovery from opioid addiction, in particular, is not easy, but it is exceptionally rare if the addict cannot access professional help. Those in Seattle without health insurance, such as the homeless, should not give up hope of rehab as there are grants available, as well as a host of other possible options.

Seattle, along with every other metropolis in the U.S., is attempting to put in place everything it needs to battle the drug addiction epidemic, from a safe-injection facility, to new legislation proposing MAT for the state’s addicts, even to debunking the myth around a simple thing like affordability.

Are these initiatives the answer? If you have any thoughts or ideas on this topic, please share with a comment below.