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Marcie Sillman talks with University of Washington pain specialist Jane Ballantyne about evolving attitudes towards prescription opiates. 

King County Heroin Deaths Up 58 Percent In 2014

Jun 18, 2015
Found in Seattle's Belltown area in 2008.
Flickr photo/Elan Ruskin (CC BY-NC 2.0)

A spike in deaths from heroin use in King County has alarmed health experts and prompted warnings that the trend will continue unless efforts to treat addiction are ramped up.

The report on drug trends from the University of Washington's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute says 156 people died with heroin in their systems in 2014, a 58 percent increase over the year before.

Christopher Takata is eager to get these vestiges of his addictions erased.
KUOW Photo/Ann Dornfeld

A lot of teenagers smoke weed. But they don’t all love it enough to get W-E-E-D tattooed across their knuckles.

"I was just a pothead, basically, obsessed with getting high. That’s all I would think about," said 18-year-old Christopher Takata, who last week became the first graduate of Seattle Public Schools' new Recovery School, for students who have been through drug or alcohol rehabilitation programs.

Lee Townsend with the Metroplitan Improvement District checks his "hotspots" in Belltown for litter...and worse.
KUOW Photo/Amy Radil

Over the past year, street sweepers in downtown Seattle saw a dramatic increase in the number of syringes on the ground. But those numbers have declined since March. They’re a data point in the larger debate over policing and drug use downtown.

Flickr Photo/torbakhopper (CC-BY-ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/nHEVtP

Ross Reynolds talks with Shilo Murphy, executive director of the People's Harm Reduction Alliance, about their new initiative to hand out free meth pipes.

Ross Reynolds speaks with Bruce Barcott, author of "Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America."

Barcott began working on the book as a self-described pot agnostic. He said his 16-year-old daughter found it hilarious that her square dad was writing a book about pot.

Barcott was concerned about how legal marijuana would affect his children. But after looking into it he said he's proud of Washington for taking the step to legalize it. He thinks the legalization effort will only grow in coming years.

Marcie Sillman gets Nancy Pearl's opinion on "Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic," by journalist Sam Quinones. The book talks about the new generation of heroin addicts: they're young, white, relatively well-off, and they buy their fix the same way they order a pizza.

Heroin drugs seized by the Counter Narcotics Police of Afghanistan.
Flickr Photo/UK Ministry of Defence

Marcie Sillman talks to journalist Sam Quinones about his book "Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic." 

William Shatner.
Flickr Photo/Brian Wilkins (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Why is William Shatner coming for our water? Does Seattle need rent control? Can a new policing plan tackle drug dealing downtown? Is tipping on the way out?

David Hyde sits in for Bill Radke to review the week’s news along with Crosscut’s Knute Berger, 'The C is For Crank' blogger Erica C. Barnett and former Washington state Attorney General Rob McKenna.

A police van at Third Avenue and Pine Street in downtown Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

There’s an open air drug market between Westlake Center and the Pike Place Market. People who live and work downtown are getting tired of dealing with that. So are business owners.

"You’re facing shoplifting multiple times a day, you’re seeing people overdose in your bathroom, you’re cleaning up heroin needles," the Downtown Seattle Association’s Jon Scholes said.

Now the city of Seattle is trying to do something about it.

There have been 95 arrests over the last few days – without a single incident of use of force, Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole says.

File photo of cocaine.
Flickr Photo/DBDurietz (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman talks with Washington State University neuroscientist Barbara Sorg about her new research into addiction and memory.

Shane Avery practices family medicine in Scott County, Ind. In December, a patient came to his office who was pregnant, and an injection drug user.

After running some routine tests, Avery found out that she was positive for HIV. She was the second case he had seen in just a few weeks.

"Right then, I kind of realized, 'Wow, are we on the tip of something?' " Avery says. "But you just put it away. ... It's statistically an oddity when you're just one little doctor, you know?"

File photo: Discarded alcohol containers.
Flickr Photo/Steve Snodgrass (CC-BY-NC-ND)/https://flic.kr/p/9AhLkB

Marcie Sillman talks with state Sen. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, about his proposal to ban aversion therapies for people under the age of 18.

Naloxone has been touted as an heroin overdose reversal drug.
Flickr Photo/intropin (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Ross Reynolds talks to Dennis Donovan, director of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute at the University of Washington, about a bill which would grant wider access to the opiate overdose medication, Naloxone.

A new study finds a disturbing trend in the battle against malaria. There are highly effective drugs called artemisinins — and now resistant malaria is turning up in parts of Myanmar, the reclusive country also known as Burma, where it hadn't been seen before.

A bill headed to the Idaho House would allow friends and family members of opioid drug users to obtain medication to counteract overdoses.

Rural Thurston County, Washington, is the kind of place people move to for a little elbow room. But if you’re a teenager from the suburbs, life can be less than exciting.

Tara Keo is a single mother to Sokinna, 16, and Kayden, 2.
KUOW Photo/Jason Pagano

RadioActive's Sokinna Keo has learned to find forgiveness for her mother's past as a drug user. Here is their story, in Keo's words: 

When my mom was in middle school, she fell into a bad place. She told me she got expelled from school and started hanging out with "the wrong people."

It's a tradition as old as New Year's: making resolutions. We will not smoke, or sojourn with the bucket of mint chocolate chip. In fact, we will resist sweets generally, including the bowl of M&M's that our co-worker has helpfully positioned on the aisle corner of his desk. There will be exercise, and the learning of a new language.

It is resolved.

So what does science know about translating our resolve into actual changes in behavior? The answer to this question brings us — strangely enough — to a story about heroin use in Vietnam.

Naloxone has been touted as an heroin overdose reversal drug.
Flickr Photo/intropin (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman talks with Caleb Banta-Green, senior researcher at University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, about naloxone, the overdose reversal drug.

File photo of homeless person in Seattle.
Flickr Photo/~C4Chaos (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Once upon a time, Jeremy Bradford saw his life spread before him; years of infinite possibility.

The Seattle native had his life together. A successful stint in the Marines had led him to a sales career. Bradford was on an upward trajectory at one of the city's best-known department stores. 

The new Recovery School is moving into the former Queen Anne High School gymnasium building.
KUOW Photo/Ann Dornfeld / KUOW

When teenagers with substance abuse problems get out of rehab and return to school, studies show that it’s likely that their peers will offer them drugs within the very first hour. That makes staying clean — or staying in school — difficult. Teens with drug and alcohol problems have a sky-high drop-out rate.

Public health officials say what young people need after rehab is a fresh start at a school focused on their needs and peers with the same goal to stay sober.

Carol Glenn, a former Seattle nurse, collected leftover HIV/AIDS drugs to send overseas. It wasn't legal, but Glenn believed it was her duty.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

Carol Glenn, a former nurse, remembers when AIDS ravaged Seattle.

“We began to have people literally walking into the clinic and dropping dead,” said Glenn, who worked at Pike Market Clinic at the time. “Or people with these really strange growths on their face or horrible pneumonias, and nobody knew what they were.”

Back then, HIV was a death sentence. AZT, the first drug approved to treat the disease, came on the market in 1987; it would be years before HIV/AIDS treatments truly started saving lives.

“People were dying left and right at that point and their friends or family would come with a box of stuff and say, ‘I don’t want to throw this away; what’ll I do with it?’” Glenn said.

Century Link Field, Seattle.
Flickr Photo/John Seb Barber (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman talks with Dave Zirin, sports writer for The Nation, about how the recent federal raids to inspect illegal drug use are just one of many signs that the relationship between the federal government and professional football is changing.

Left to right: Hannah Apple Fig, Trent Johnson, Matt Streib and Jessica Bernard at Stumptown Coffee Roasters on Pine Street. Matt found the defectors: all three are or were baristas at Starbucks, and while Matt is on coffee number four, Jessica imbibes at
KUOW Photo/Jenna Montgomery

From the producer who brought you fresh, raw Nigerian dwarf goat milk comes this manic coffee crawl. 

Flickr Photo/Chesapeake Bay Program (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman talks with Fred Hutchinson cancer researcher Dr. Jim Olson about the development of a new human drug-testing model.

Ross Reynolds talks with Dennis Donovan, director of University of Washington's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, about why it's so hard to determine what recovery strategies work best for overcoming addiction.

Federal dollars meant to restore toxic areas like old factories, mines and gas stations are now going to clean up after another long-time industry: methamphetamine.

In the western Mexican state of Michoacan, civilian militias have challenged a powerful drug cartel known as the Knights Templar. The vigilante uprising, which spurred the Mexican government to send soldiers and police to help counter the cartel, was fueled by migrants who returned to Mexico after years living north of the border.

Reny Pineda, who was raised in Los Angeles, is one of those migrants. When he returned to his homeland in Mexico, he found a new life fighting drug lords.

Underneath the charm of Martha's Vineyard's picturesque beaches, peaceful woods and luxury homes is a problem: Since August, there have been six overdose deaths on the island.

"That's a phenomenal rate for a community of 16,000 people — and that's not to mention the overdoses that haven't been fatal," says Charles Silberstein, an addiction specialist and psychiatrist at Martha's Vineyard Hospital. "We've had overdoses for years, but I don't think we've ever seen this kind of number or frequency."

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