Fewer people overdosed on opioids in Snohomish County in a seven-day snapshot this year than in the same point-in-time count in 2018 or 2017.
The county measures opioid overdoses and deaths in a given week each July as part of a larger effort to understand how opioids are influencing overdoses, said Healther Thomas, Snohomish Health District spokesperson. To gather a week’s worth of data, the Snohomish Health District and its partners gave a one-page questionnaire to hospitals, needle exchanges, emergency responders, fire departments and law enforcement.
During a week in July, 27 people in Snohomish County overdosed on opioids, compared with 57 overdoses in 2018 and 37 in 2017.
Two people died during the seven-day snapshot in 2019, the same number as in 2018. As of Aug. 5, Snohomish County has seen 63 opioid-related deaths in 2019, compared with 125 in all of 2018. Of those 2018 deaths, 55 were from overdoses involving fentanyl, a synthetic narcotic much more potent than heroin; synthetic opioids account for 34 of the deaths in the county so far this year.
Most overdoses tallied in the point-in-time count involved heroin. In some instances, heroin was used along with other substances like methamphetamine, prescription opioids and alcohol. Seventeen of the people who overdosed had bought the drugs on the street.
Thomas said the drop in overdoses can be partly attributed to wider availability of naloxone, a drug that halts an opioid overdose.
Of the 27 people who overdosed during the point-in-time count, 74% received naloxone, which is also commonly known by the brand name Narcan. Eight people had the drug administered by a bystander, friend or family member, and 12 received it from emergency responders.
Late last month, naloxone became available in pharmacies statewide after Washington state’s health officer, Dr. Kathy Lofy, issued a “standing order” allowing any person or organization to get the medication without a prescription.
More than half of the people whose overdoses were counted in the seven-day snapshot were in their 20s or 30s. The oldest was 66; the youngest was 15. Most overdosed at home; five were homeless.
“What this is showing us is that it is impacting all parts of our community,” Thomas said.
In King County, fatal overdoses from prescription opioids and heroin have been stable in recent years, but twice as many of them were fentanyl-related last year as in 2017. Fentanyl overdoses killed 66 people in King County last year, according to a report by Public Health – Seattle & King County.
More broadly in King County, 415 people died from drugs and or alcohol in general last year, an increase of 36 from 2017, according to the report.
Snohomish County is getting help from a grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention that allows the county to collect information multiple times a week about overdose patients who visit an emergency room at Swedish Edmonds or Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Thomas said.
The seven-day snapshot is conducted by the Opioid Response MAC Group, which includes the county’s health district and various governments, government agencies and service providers in Snohomish County. The MAC Group provides information about opioids and treatment at snohomishoverdoseprevention.com.