Drug-related deaths rose by 36 percent in Seattle’s King County last year, fueled in large part by a steady increase of apparent prescription painkiller overdoses, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. About one in five of last year’s 253 deaths occurred in people who had taken a combination of prescription opiates and depressants, such as Xanax or Valium, in addition to other drugs, said a report from the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute.
“Some of this is undoubtedly purposeful,” said Caleb Banta-Green, the report’s author. He says depressants are sometimes called “hamburger helper” because they supplement the high of painkillers, such as oxycodone and methadone. Ann Marie Gordon, state toxicology lab manger, said some deaths are related to users’ buying methadone on the street or swiping a family member’s oxycodone from the medicine cabinet to get high. “There’s this misguided belief that methadone is safe,” she said. ” ‘After all, it’s the drug they give to heroin addicts.'”