If you or a loved one reside in Washington and are struggling with substance and/or alcohol addiction, then please call our Washington drug addiction helpline. Whether you live in Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, Bellevue or any other city in the state, we are here to serve you. Our helpful advisors can talk you through all of your different options. If you are ready to find treatment or just need someone to talk to, we are here for you. Call today and take the first step in your recovery journey.

Washington Helplines and Resources 

The Washing State Health Care Authority offers resources to those in need of alcohol use treatment. There are also 24/7 helplines available, including the Washington Recovery helpline, which focuses on mental health and addictions.

  • The Washington Recovery Helpline (1.866.789.1511) offers confidential, anonymous, 24-hour help for Washington State residents with substance use disorders.
  • Washington State residents experiencing a mental health crisis can contact the Crisis Clinic in Seattle/King County for 24-hour help (1.866-427-4747).
  • Teenagers in Washington State can connect with Teen Link (1.866-833-6546) to have their questions about substance abuse answered confidentially.

Substance Abuse

Like the rest of the United States, Washington State is no stranger to alcohol and drug abuse. The 7.6 million 1 racially diverse Americans who call Washington their home have been struggling with a growing problem with substance abuse over the past few decades.

Trends indicate a worrisome increase in substance use disorders among adolescents and young adults. Washington State drug rehabs commonly treat people addicted to alcohol and various drugs, including opioids, methamphetamine, and heroin, as well as new and emerging synthetic hallucinogenic drugs.

Given the size of the state, there are vast geographic variations in drug use and access to treatment. The government tracks drug-related deaths and crime lab data (drug seizures by law enforcement) to direct funding and oversight for substance use treatment services in the state.

Alcohol Abuse

According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 14.4 million Americans had alcohol use disorder. More than 26% of adults reported binge drinking in the United States. 2Comparable trends are not available for alcohol use disorder in Washington but are available for binge drinking. 3

Fortunately, binge drinking did not change significantly in Washington State between 1990 and 2010. However, in 2015, out of a total of 44,799 treatment admissions to state-funded rehab facilities in Washington, 13,851 (about 30%) were for alcohol use disorder. 4

In 2017, more than 25,000 impaired drivers were arrested for DUI offenses (alcohol blood alcohol concentration (BAC) more than 0.08 or drug positive). On average, 149 people die in Washington State each summer (July-September) due to impaired driving. Roughly 50% of road fatalities in Washington State are due to impaired driving. 5Studies have shown that drivers impaired by multiple intoxicating substances (alcohol plus drugs or multiple drugs) are three times more likely to be involved in fatal motor vehicle accidents.

To reduce the impact of alcohol abuse on society, Washington State laws prohibit individuals under the age of 21 from acquiring, possessing, or consuming alcohol. Driving under the influence (DUI) with a BAC of 0.08 or higher invites a 90-day license suspension, 1-day jail sentence, 15-day electronic monitoring at home, fines over $8,000, and possible ignition interlock. 6

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is the consumption of five or more drinks on one occasion in the past month for men (four or more for women). Binge drinking is a risk factor for developing alcohol use disorder. Some of the statistics regarding binge drinking in Washington State are listed below:

Overall: In 2013, roughly 17% of adults in Washington State reported binge drinking, a rate that is lower than the US as a whole.

Geographic Variation: Ferry County had the highest rate of binge drinking (25%) and Klickitat County the lowest (12%).

Age and Gender: Men in Washington report binge drinking more than women in every age group. Women in the 18-34 age group and men in the 18-44 age group reported binge drinking more than other age groups.

Economic Factors and Education: Binge drinking is lower among college graduates in Washington State compared to those with less education. It is also lower in households with an annual income of less than $20,000 compared to households with annual incomes above $25,000.

Race: Asians were least likely to report binge drinking and Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiians were the most likely.

Opioid Abuse 

Prescription opioids are a class of drugs made from the opium poppy plant. They are used to treat severe pain, but some people abuse these drugs because they produce relaxation and a “high.” Prescription opioids are chemically similar to the illegal drug heroin. Many people start with abusing prescription opioids but switch to using heroin because it is cheaper and more easily available. Roughly 80% of people who use heroin report that they first misused prescription opioids. 7

Washington is grappling with an opioid crisis with increasing use, morbidity, and mortality associated with prescription opioid abuse. Some statistics that indicate the severity of the problem are listed below: 8

  • Crime lab cases involving prescription opioids increased from 5.5 per 100,000 population in 2002 to 11.2 per 100,000 population in 2019, reflecting a more than 100% increase in positive testing for opioids.
  • State-funded drug rehabs in Washington reported first admissions for prescription opioid addiction at 2.9 per 100,000 population in 2002. This increased to 12.5 per 100,000 population in 2015, indicating a more than four-fold increase.
  • A total of 9,798 deaths were reported from opioid abuse between 1999 and 2015 in Washington State. In 2015 alone, there were 692 opioid-related deaths in Washington State.

Methamphetamine Trends 

Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant drug that is highly addictive. Crystal meth is a popular form of the drug that is chemically similar to amphetamine, a medication used to treat ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Highly potent and low-priced methamphetamine comes into the United States mostly from Mexico. Methamphetamine abuse and addiction can lead to several short- and long-term health complications. Here are some of the trends regarding methamphetamine addiction in Washington: 9

  • The methamphetamine-related death rate increased from 1.5 per 100,000 state residents in 2003 to 7.1 per 100,000 state residents in 2018, a nearly five-fold increase.
  • In 2018, a total of 531 Washington State residents died due to drug poisonings involving methamphetamine.
  • Crime lab cases involving methamphetamine (drug seizures by law enforcement) numbered 5,067 in 2002, peaked at 9,677 in 2005, and were 6,242 in 2019.
  • In 2019, methamphetamine constituted roughly 63% of all crime lab drug cases.
  • Admissions to publicly funded treatment facilities where methamphetamine was the primary drug of abuse were 60.6 per 100,000 state residents in 1999. This number increased to 107.4 admissions per 100,000 residents in 2015.
  • Roughly 17% of all treatment admissions in Washington State in 2015 were for methamphetamine.

Heroin Abuse 

Heroin is an illegal opioid drug made from the seed of the poppy plant. People sniff, snort, inject, or smoke heroin because it produces a powerful surge of euphoria. However, heroin is associated with various health complications and the risk of addiction, overdose, and death. 10

Heroin is a problem in Washington particularly in larger cities like Seattle, Yakima, and Tacoma. The most common form of heroin available in Washington is black tar heroin, transported by Mexican criminal groups.

A total of 15,000 people died from drug overdoses involving heroin in the United States in 2018. That same year, there were 328 heroin overdose deaths in Washington State. 11

Marijuana Use

Washington State legalized marijuana for adult recreational use in 2012. Individuals 21 years of age or older are now able to consume, possess, and buy marijuana legally in Washington State with a possession limit of 28.3 grams of useable marijuana. Roughly 68% of all marijuana products sold in the state are in the baked goods and desserts category.12 The retail marijuana industry is expected to bring the state $1 billion in revenue through 2019. However, with improved access to legal marijuana for adults, the state has seen an increase in marijuana abuse by adolescents.

Cost of Addiction Treatment

A 2006 study had found that the average cost of substance abuse treatment was about $2,300 per episode for public clients in Washington State. However, the study also found that substance abuse treatment significantly offsets the cost of medical care for addiction. On average, the cost of medical care was $170 less per member per month for Medicaid members who receive inpatient treatment for substance abuse compared to members who needed addiction treatment but did not get it. 13

Drug Abuse Trends 

Crime lab data is a good indicator of the supply of illicit or prescription drugs that are being sold illegally in Washington State. The State Patrol’s Crime Lab tests samples of drugs seized and submitted by law enforcement.

In 2020, there was a significant increase (positive cases more than doubled) for non-prescription designer benzodiazepines and fentanyl. Also, cases positive for buprenorphine, a medication used to treat opioid use disorder, increased in many counties. Cases testing positive for heroin jumped in five Washington State counties in the first two quarters of 2020, reflecting a doubling of cases compared to the past 3 years. A new and emerging class of psychoactive drugs called tryptamines, which include mushrooms and LSD, also more than doubled during the same period. 14

Last updated: August 27, 2020

References

  1. The United States Census Bureau. Quick Facts Washington. Available online. Accessed on August 27, 2020. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/WA
  2. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol Facts and Statistics. Available online. Accessed on August 27, 2020. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
  3. Depart of Health Washington State. Alcohol Abuse and Dependence. Available online. Accessed on August 27, 2020. https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/1500/RPF-Alc2015-DU.pdf
  4. Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute. University of Washington. Methamphetamine trends across Washington state. Available online. Accessed on August 27, 2020. https://adai.washington.edu/WAdata/methamphetamine.htm
  5. Washington Traffic Safety Commission. Impaired Driving. Available online. Accessed on August 27, 2020. https://wtsc.wa.gov/programs-priorities/impaired-driving/
  6. University of Puget Sound. Washington State Laws on Alcohol Consumption. Available online. Accessed on August 27, 2020. https://www.pugetsound.edu/student-life/counseling-health-and-wellness/training-prevention/substance-abuse-prevention/washington-state-laws-on-alcoh/
  7. Prescription Opioids DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-opioids. July 24, 2020 Accessed August 27, 2020.
  8. Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute. University of Washington. Statewide opioid sales to hospitals and pharmacies. Available online. Accessed on August 27, 2020. https://adai.washington.edu/WAdata/ARCOSopiates.htm
  9. Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute. University of Washington. Methamphetamine trends across Washington state. Available online. Accessed on August 27, 2020. https://adai.washington.edu/WAdata/methamphetamine.htm
  10. Heroin DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin. July 24, 2020 Accessed August 27, 2020.
  11. National Drug Intelligence Center. Washington Drug Threat Assessment. February 2003. Heroin. Available online. Accessed on August 27, 2020.
  12. Washington State Marijuana Impact Report. Available online. Accessed on August 27, 2020.
  13. Wickizer TM, Krupski A, Stark KD, Mancuso D, Campbell K. The effect of substance abuse treatment on Medicaid expenditures among general assistance welfare clients in Washington state. Milbank Q. 2006;84(3):555-576. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0009.2006.00458.x https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2690254/
  14. Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute. University of Washington. New and emerging drugs in state crime lab evidence: Quarter 1 & 2 2020. Available online. Accessed on August 27, 2020. https://adai.washington.edu/WAdata/new&emerging_cases.htm