drugs

Oxycodone pills.
Flickr Photo/Be.Futureproof (CC BY 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/4xcHp9

Seattle leaders want the city to have more disposal sites for drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin.

The City Council passed a resolution Monday that asks pharmacies and the Seattle Police Department to install drug disposal boxes.

Oregon’s water is tested for suspended solids, certain chemicals and heavy metals — but not for pharmaceuticals.

With prescription drug use on the rise unused meds too often end up in the landfill or flushed down the toilet. In Oregon, Lane County agencies are stepping up their message of what to do with unwanted drugs.

Sarah Grimm, the waste reduction specialist for Lane County Public Works, said she's seeing a problem in her industry: pharmaceutical meds being flushed down the toilet.

How do you fix a problem if you don't know its size?

Many states — including some that have been hardest hit by the opioid crisis — don't know how many of their youngest residents each year are born physically dependent on those drugs. They rely on estimates.

Pennsylvania is one of those states. Ted Dallas, head of Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services, calls the information he's working with "reasonably good."

Opioids are becoming the latest serious addiction problem in this country. Among these drugs manufactured from opium, heroin is the most serious, dangerous, cheap and available everywhere.

In April's edition of Harper's Magazine, Dan Baum has examined a new response to this latest addiction problem: the legalization of drugs.

Carolyn Rossi has been a registered nurse for 27 years, and she's been fiercely protective of infants in her intensive care unit — babies born too soon, babies born with physical and cognitive abnormalities and, increasingly, babies born dependent on opioids.

Naloxone Syringe
Flickr Photo/VCU CNS (CC BY NC 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/r3Msnd

Bike cops in Seattle are now armed with a tool that could save people from dying of a heroin overdose. Officers in three areas of the city will carry naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of a heroin overdose.

Seattle Police spokesperson Sean Whitcomb said officers respond to about 100 overdoses a month. He said bike cops are well positioned to get to the calls quickly.

Heroin needle
Flickr Photo/William Fahrnbach (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/qNv4vL

Federal health authorities say there’s an opioid epidemic across the country, and Washington is not immune.

In the Northwest, far more people die from drug overdoses than car crashes, according to Susan Johnson at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The epidemic of opioid abuse that's swept the U.S. has left virtually no community unscathed, from big cities to tiny towns.

In fact, drug overdose is now the leading cause of injury death in this country: more than gun deaths; more than car crashes.

A Boston nonprofit plans to soon test a new way of addressing the city's heroin epidemic. The idea is simple. Along a stretch of road that has come to be called Boston's "Methadone Mile," the program will open a room in March with a nurse, some soft chairs and basic life-saving equipment — a place where heroin users can ride out their high, under medical supervision.

Ricky Garcia and Lauren Davis are fighting to pass Ricky's Law in the Washington State Legislature that would allow involuntary committment for addicts.
Courtesy of Lauren Davis

What can you do if someone you love wants to hurt themselves? If the underlying cause is mental illness, one option is to have them involuntarily committed for psychiatric treatment.

But, if the underlying cause is addiction, things get much harder.

Heroin needle
Flickr Photo/William Fahrnbach (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/qNv4vL

Bill Radke speaks with Caleb Banta-Green about a state-wide survey of needle exchange programs and the drug users they serve in Washington. Banta-Green is with the University of Washington's Alcohol and Drug Addiction Institute. 

As the drug-related death toll rises in the United States, communities are trying to open more treatment beds. But an ongoing labor shortage among drug treatment staff is slowing those efforts.

Screenshot from Frontline's new documentary 'Chasing Heroin.'
YouTube

Bill Radke talks with filmmaker Marcela Gaviria about her Frontline documentary "Chasing Heroin," which focuses on the Puget Sound region. King County alone saw a spike of 58 percent in fatal heroin overdoses from 2013 to 2014. Seattle's LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) program aims to get addicts into drug treatment instead of jail.

A discarded hypodermic needle next to the train tracks outside the Yankee Diner on Shilshole Avenue. Neighbors have complained about drug use, waste and garbage they attribute to car campers and RVs in the neighborhood.
KUOW Photo/Jason Pagano

Seattle is experiencing a heroin epidemic. North Seattle residents say they find proof of that epidemic in parks and on sidewalks in the form of used, discarded needles. 

Mike Cuadra is a member of the North Precinct Advisory Council, a coalition of community groups and businesses from North Seattle neighborhoods. He's seen a rise in the number of needles littering his neighborhood over the past two years. 

"It's scary. I think people are frightened and angry," Cuadra said. 

Cathy Fennelly tried to save her son from heroin addiction.

For eight years, she tried to help him get sober. She told him he couldn't come home unless he was in treatment. It tormented her, knowing that he might be sleeping on the streets, cold at night.

But nothing worked. In 2015, she found him dead from an overdose on her front step.

"No matter how many detoxes I put him in, no matter how many mental facilities; I emptied out my 401(k), I sold my jewelry," she says. "This will never get easier. Never."

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