New report reveals thousands suffer from opioid use disorder

EVERETT – A new report out of the north sound reveals somewhere between five and ten-thousand people are suffering from opioid use disorder.

The Snohomish Health District released our state’s first of its kind report that also showed as many as 80-thousand people could be misusing the drugs.

Up until a couple years ago officials say they didn’t have data like this – mostly what they knew about overdoses were from those that turned deadly.

Now this new study is meant to figure out where the county should be spending money to make sure those fatality rates drop.

“It’s a difficult problem to address because opioid addiction is not a reportable disease like the flu,” said Dr. Mark Beatty.

Beatty spent months analyzing data to come up with the new figures.

Using a method called capture – recapture, the study pulled data from emergency room visits and 911 call center data that focused on overdoses. Then the study extrapolated that information to come up with an estimated five to ten thousand people throughout the county who have become dependent on opioids.

The method also determined an additional 35 to 80 thousand more people across the county who are likely misusing opioids and could be at risk for developing dependence.

“It’s families and neighbors and children and parents and we really do need to pull together to deal with this problem,” he said.

What’s more, the study also illustrates how people who aren’t using opioids are impacted by the crisis.

The report revealed an increase in newly identified chronic hepatitis c infections.

Plus, Snohomish County newborns beat the state average for children born with withdrawal symptoms because of opioid exposure in the womb.

It’s data that points to multiple populations impacted by the opioid crisis, that could help officials determine how to appropriate grants and treatments that can reduce the number of overdoses.

“I think this report sets a bench mark so that we now can evaluate interventions in the county and look and see if they’re making impacts we’re anticipating,” said Heather Thomas.

Snohomish County officials say the study was made possible by the chemical dependency and mental health sales tax.

The ultimate goal of studies like this is to reduce addiction and crime rates county-wide.