Report: King County breaks record in drug deaths

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

SEATTLE -- A report published Thursday by the University of Washington reveals there were a reported 332 drug deaths in King County in 2016.

The number of overdoses is record setting, according to a UW Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute press release.

According to the report, the number is up from a reported 320 deaths in 2015.

"Those are due to a couple factors, there's actually a decline in the availability of cocaine, and people are increasingly combining methamphetamine and heroine," said Caleb Banta-Green, principle research scientist at the UW Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute."

More than two-thirds of the deaths in 2016 were opioid-involved overdoses.

Prescription-type opioid involved deaths are continually rising, the report said.

Heroin use also remains at high levels in the county. According to the report, there were more than four calls per day to the Washington state Recovery Helpline regarding heroin use.

"The report highlights the terrible fact that drug overdoses continue to be a leading cause of death in our community," said Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer with the Public Health-Seattle & King County in the news release.

Last year also saw a rise in fentanyl-related deaths. According to the report, 17 of the overdose deaths in 2016 involved the powerful painkiller fentanyl or fentanyl-like drugs.

The report comes after both Bellevue and Federal Way recently voted to ban safe-injection sites in their cities. King County is currently working toward opening a safe-injection site in Seattle, and another one elsewhere in the county.

"We all need to recognize addiction as the chronic medical condition it is, make treatment as easy to get as heroin is and address barriers to recovery," Duchin said in the news release.

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