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Drug overdose data shows an alarming trend in recent years

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Drug overdose deaths in King County seem to be on a concerning trend in recent years.

King County recorded 510 drug or alcohol related deaths in 2020, the highest measured in more than 10 years. The year before saw 422 overdose deaths, while 367 have already been recorded in 2021 (as of July 14).

In an alarming trend, fentanyl-related deaths have drastically increased in the last decade. Between 2008 and 2015, there were rarely ever more than 12 fentanyl-related overdose deaths in a year.

According to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office, in 2020 there were more than 170 deaths attributable to fentanyl.

A little more than halfway into 2021, the county has already recorded over 160 fentanyl deaths, with more than 50 toxicology results still pending.

Methamphetamine-involved deaths have also been on an almost exponential incline in King County. County data indicates that in 2008, there were only 16 methamphetamine overdose deaths, while there 236 recorded in 2020.

With over 1,700 reported overdose deaths in 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates a 37 percent increase in Washington state from the year before.

The CDC data also show a national trend of increasing overdose deaths with an estimated yearly increase of nearly 30 percent.

While the social isolatiion and stress during the pandemic may not have played a major part in the long-term picture of the trend, experts and studies are showing that it certainly did not help.

A CDC survey study found that at one point during the pandemic, 40 percent of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance use. A little more than 30 percent admitted to experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, while 26 percent reported symptoms of trauma or a stress-related disorder.

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Cameron Sheppard

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Cameron Sheppard