New state dashboard shows rising drug-related deaths
A new state dashboard gives further insight into the number of drug-related deaths and hospitalizations occurring in Washington.
The dashboard shows there were 7,598 fatal overdoses from 2017 through 2021, the majority related to opioids.
Deaths have been climbing sharply for the past few years.
Increased availability and use of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, which is far more potent than heroin, has played a role in the rising death toll.
Fentanyl contamination in other drugs may also be a factor.
State officials say they hope the dashboard will help people understand the magnitude and trends of the current crisis.
“I would love to see this information used at the local level,” said Anna Frerichs, drug overdose epidemiologist with the state Department of Health.
Frerichs said having the right data can go a long way to helping improve prevention, treatment, and harm-reduction programs in communities. She said it can also help target services to those who are hardest hit.
The state data not only shows the increase in deaths and hospitalizations that have occurred in recent years, it also shows that the crisis is taking a heavier toll on some groups.
“Overdose rates are higher in men, as opposed to women, and they're highest in the American Indian and Alaskan Native community,” Frerichs said.
Drug-related age-adjusted death rates for American Indian and Native Alaskan people in 2021 were more than double those in any other population.
The next hardest hit population were members of the Black community.
The history of systemic racism and oppression contributes to health disparities for both of these groups, as it does for other communities of color.