Fatal overdoses linked to heroin surged by 58 percent in Seattle’s King County last year, fueling the steepest rise in local drug-caused deaths in 17 years, the Seattle Times reports. Heroin was involved in 156 deaths in the region in 2014, up from 99 the year before and just 49 in 2009. Overall, there were 314 drug deaths in the area last year, the highest number since 1997, said the University of Washington Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute.
The only word to describe the trend is “distressing,” said Caleb Banta-Green, an affiliate associate professor of health services with the UW School of Public Health. Drug deaths tied to methamphetamine also jumped by 59 percent, with 70 deaths in 2014, up from 44 the year before. Among primary heroin users, meth was the common secondary drug of choice, used in about a quarter of cases. The local spike comes even as deaths tied to opiate painkillers like Oxycodone fell to the lowest levels in more than a decade. There were 98 deaths in that category last year, down from 164 in 2009, a 40 percent drop. That likely reflects the results of a national crackdown on the prescription medications that has made it harder to obtain and abuse the legal drugs, said Banta-Green.