Event Title

Bellingham's opioid crisis

Research Mentor(s)

Carolyn Nielson

Description

National headlines characterize opioid use in American as an epidemic, but that characterization from the mouth of a struggling addict makes one truly realize the magnitude of the problem. “It’s an epidemic out here. It’s a full-blown epidemic,” said Suzanne, a 25-year-old female who regularly uses both heroin and methamphetamine. She is just entering Whatcom Drug Court, where she will be directed to treatment and long-term strategies for coping with substance abuse disorder. Opioid abuse in Whatcom County has skyrocketed in recent years. Data from the Whatcom County Medical Examiner shows that drug overdose deaths have been up by approximately nine percent each year for the past four years. In 2016, 59 percent of all accidental deaths investigated by the Whatcom County Medical Examiner were found to be drug overdoses, up from 50 percent the year prior. In Bellingham, opiate abuse differs from the national narrative. The preponderance of heroin on death certificates illustrates that this is the leading drug of choice in Bellingham and Whatcom County at large. Experts said the drive to eliminate prescription opioid abuse has lead individuals to seek illicit substances like heroin instead. Overdose deaths illustrate that this problem is growing, but they only begin to show the scope of the opioid crisis manifesting in the Bellingham community, which impacts every age, race, gender and socioeconomic demographic. It impacts individuals, families and the community at large in terms of public health, crime, hospitalization, incarceration, mental health care and other implications, Brian Wilson, manager of emergency services at St. Joseph Medical Center, said. Even though services and treatment options are available for those suffering with opioid substance abuse, Wilson worries they are far from meeting the need. “It’s going to get a lot bigger before it gets better,” he speculated.

Document Type

Event

Start Date

May 2018

End Date

May 2018

Department

Journalism

Rights

Copying of this document in whole or in part is allowable only for scholarly purposes. It is understood, however, that any copying or publication of this document for commercial purposes, or for financial gain, shall not be allowed without the author’s written permission.

Language

English

Format

application/pdf

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May 16th, 9:00 AM May 16th, 12:00 PM

Bellingham's opioid crisis

National headlines characterize opioid use in American as an epidemic, but that characterization from the mouth of a struggling addict makes one truly realize the magnitude of the problem. “It’s an epidemic out here. It’s a full-blown epidemic,” said Suzanne, a 25-year-old female who regularly uses both heroin and methamphetamine. She is just entering Whatcom Drug Court, where she will be directed to treatment and long-term strategies for coping with substance abuse disorder. Opioid abuse in Whatcom County has skyrocketed in recent years. Data from the Whatcom County Medical Examiner shows that drug overdose deaths have been up by approximately nine percent each year for the past four years. In 2016, 59 percent of all accidental deaths investigated by the Whatcom County Medical Examiner were found to be drug overdoses, up from 50 percent the year prior. In Bellingham, opiate abuse differs from the national narrative. The preponderance of heroin on death certificates illustrates that this is the leading drug of choice in Bellingham and Whatcom County at large. Experts said the drive to eliminate prescription opioid abuse has lead individuals to seek illicit substances like heroin instead. Overdose deaths illustrate that this problem is growing, but they only begin to show the scope of the opioid crisis manifesting in the Bellingham community, which impacts every age, race, gender and socioeconomic demographic. It impacts individuals, families and the community at large in terms of public health, crime, hospitalization, incarceration, mental health care and other implications, Brian Wilson, manager of emergency services at St. Joseph Medical Center, said. Even though services and treatment options are available for those suffering with opioid substance abuse, Wilson worries they are far from meeting the need. “It’s going to get a lot bigger before it gets better,” he speculated.