Everett, Washington has seen a rise in opioid addiction rates in recent years. The ugly nature of this epidemic can no longer be contained and has reared its ugly head on street corners and in empty parking lots. Everywhere that you go, it’s possible to see used needles. If you look closely enough, you may even notice a drug deal or two.
“5,000 to 10,000 residents in Snohomish County, where Everett is located, have an Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). 35,000 to 80,000 residents misuse opioids.”
This crisis appears to have come from nowhere and has had a lasting effect on the community. Where did this public health crisis come from? And, what has been driving the rising addiction rates? We’ll explore this issue in detail here.
Black Market Oxy Floods the Market
The rise of America’s opioid epidemic comes from a seemingly innocent place. In 1996, Purdue Pharma released OxyContin, an effective and quick acting prescription painkiller. Purdue Pharma aggressively marketed this new prescription pain pill as being less addictive and as more effective. They concealed studies that pointed towards the significance abuse potential for this drug.
“A confidential Justice Department report found the company was aware early on that OxyContin was being crushed and snorted for its powerful narcotic, but continued to promote it as less addictive.”
Many doctors were quick to prescribe this medication to their patients due to the fact that they were misled about its overall addictiveness. This exposed many Americans to this opioid. Of those who were exposed, many became addicted.
Soon, organized drug rings were colluding with rogue doctors and pharmacies to get their hands on large quantities of Oxy. Illicit Oxy would come from LA and make their way to Everett. For example, the Inland Empire Crips gang smuggled bags of OxyContin from LA to Everett using the Interstate 5 Highway. Everett residents were able to easily get their hands on 80-milligram tablets, which are the highest strength tablets available. This spurred the initial rise in opioid addictions.
From Oxy to Heroin
Black market OxyContin does not come cheap. In fact, for those without a prescription, these illicit drugs are actually quite expensive. An analysis of the cost of OxyContin on the dark web found that the median price of a 10-pack of OxyContin was about $248.15.
Many addicts had difficulties financing their addiction and would turn to crime. In fact, Oxycontin would be a factor in over half of the crimes committed in Snohomish County.
Those who could no longer afford OxyContin would turn to heroin. This drug has a similar chemical profile and effect as OxyContin. It was also easier to get this drug on the black market.
As the government and pharmacy companies started cracking down on pill mills and rogue doctors, more and more patients would lose their access to this drug of abuse. Finding another doctor to prescribe them Oxys was difficult, and even impossible at times. Those who needed a hit could find relief in heroin.
This is how the rush of improperly marketed and regulated oxycodone tablets led to an epic opioid addiction crisis in Everett.
The 2010 Reformulation of OxyContin
In 2010, Purdue Pharma reformulated OxyContin in hopes of making it less addictive. They replaced the previous formula with an abuse-deterrent formulation.
This move backfired.
While the reformulation halted prescription opioid consumption, studies saw a huge increase in heroin use, abuse, and overdoses. Drug abusers simply shifted to heroin, which is easier to manipulate, cheaper and also readily available. Heroin is also cut with unknown chemicals. As a result, drug users were exposed to more health complications and also more dangerous side effects. Some experts argue that the reformulation simply led to a one-for-one substitution of heroin deaths for opioid overdoses.
Take a more in-depth look at the study from the video below:
Who Is to Blame?
Now that we are aware of how the opioid crisis started, many people are wondering who is to blame. Are the doctors who overprescribed OxyContin without double checking that it wasn’t addictive to blame? Or, are the drug dealers who sold black market OxyContin the main culprit?
Many people now agree that Purdue Pharma and other pharmacies should shoulder most of the blame. After all, they knowingly, recklessly and negligently supplied OxyContin to suspicious physicians and pharmacies. They continued to send shipments of this addictive drug to pharmacies who were ordering disproportionately large quantities of the drug.
Leaked documents also showed that Purdue Pharma did not take any action even when they found large-scale abuse of the drug.
Everett, Washington is one of the first cities to sue Purdue Pharma. They claim that drugmakers sat by and watched as a significant amount of pills were funneled into the city of 108,000. This city is seeking compensation for the results of addiction. They allege that Purdue Pharma is responsible for the damages that the city has sustained. After all, 1 in 5 heroin-related deaths in Washington from 2011 to 2013 occurred in this region.
Purdue Pharmacy Finally Settles with Oklahoma for $270 Million
In March 2019, Purdue Pharma finally reached a settlement with Oklahoma for $270 million. This settlement will allow Purdue Pharma to avoid going to a state court trial over the company’s role in the nation’s opioid epidemic.
“Purdue appears to have concluded that it was less risky to settle the Oklahoma case than have the allegations publicly aired against it during a televised trial and face exposure to what could have been an astronomical jury verdict”
~ Abbe R. Gluck, a professor at Yale Law School
This settlement is a huge win for many states and cities. It shows that it’s not only possible to hold the drugmakers responsible for their role in this disaster, but that the settlement amount may be able to create campaigns and initiatives that can make a huge difference in the community. It sets a precedence for what these cases may be worth. It also gives Everett hope that it can hold these drugmakers responsible for the damage that they have done to their beautiful city.
Oklahoma’s settlement will go towards creating more addiction treatment programs. In particular, $100 million will fund a new addiction treatment and research center at Oklahoma State University.
Taking Action: How Everett Is Working to Combat Rising Addiction Rates
Everett, Washington is not sitting back and merely watching the opioid epidemic create chaos in the city. The city is doing as much as it can to put a stop to the crisis. They have launched a Safe Streets Initiative that aims to attack addiction from multiple approaches. They have created a to-do list with over 100 items, and are slowly tackling each issue one by one.
Everett, Washington is treating its addiction crisis as it would a natural disaster. Let’s take a look at some of the various initiatives below.
Social Workers Join Police Officers on Routine Patrols
To combat the drug epidemic, social workers in Everett are now joining police offers on routine patrols. This team of community outreach members and enforcement officers strikes a much-needed balance in the city. These teams go around the city looking to reach out to those who may be struggling with addiction.
Social workers are able to help connect the addicts that they run into with addiction treatment, mental health, and other services. They are able to help them find either an inpatient or outpatient drug and alcohol rehab program that fits their needs, schedule and lifestyle. This campaign has reached and helped many substance abusers who are in need of help.
“We understand that we can’t arrest our way out of problems that addiction is causing our city.”
Sometimes, these teams spend numerous hours following up with individuals in order to find them the help that they need. They often run into high functioning addicts, which are essentially the same as functional alcoholics, who have had their lives turned upside down after being introduced to prescription opioids. Some addicts are barely able to hide their addiction while they keep up hectic social and professional lives. Others may have spiraled out of control and lost everything.
Everett Libraries Are On the Front Lines
The Everett Public Library System has two different branches and locations. Both locations are common places where drug abusers shoot up. The libraries have not only accepted this as normal but are also doing their best to make a difference by:
- Offering Narcan training to librarians. Libraries are learning how to administer naloxone in the nasal spray form to those who overdose on the drug. This overdose antidote has saved thousands of people so far by blocking the effects of opioids. This medication can prevent an overdose from worsening and progressing. It ensures that the overdose victim can get the medical help that he or she needs. This training is not a requirement. Many libraries are, however, opting for training, so they can help in times of need.
- Revamping their washrooms. Main doors to washrooms now have windows to prevent people from camping out there. The stall heights have also been lowered, and sharps containers have been installed to each stall. This is to prevent drug users from dumping sharp items, like needles, in garbage cans.
- Hosting addiction education events. Libraries regularly host speakers who are experts on addiction and drug information workshops. Libraries also help drug users find the drug information that they need.
Many people would agree that Everett libraries are on the front lines of the war with addiction. They are doing the best that they can to raise awareness for this issue. Many librarians are also willing to step up and help the community in any way that they can.
Abandoned Parking Lots Transformed into Safe Spaces for the Homeless
There’s a strong link between addiction and homelessness. Some studies suggest that over 26% of the homeless population abuse drugs. Many of these people are down on their luck after being introduced to OxyContin.
Everett is doing its best to increase support to homeless individuals. They want to lower or eliminate barriers that prevent these individuals from securing housing. The goal is to help these individuals deal with one problem in their lives so that they can focus on other things like recovering from an addiction.
As of March 2019, Everett has moved forward with creating “safe parking lots”, which will cost the city about $25,000. This initiative will partner up with faith-based groups to create a safer environment for those who are living out of their cars. By having a safe place to call home, these individuals can then start working on improving other aspects of their lives.
Both addiction and mental health issues complicate things for those who are homeless. Those who are struggling with both issues have a co-occurring disorder and need to look for dual diagnosis treatment.
Addiction Treatment Programs in Jail
There’s a strong correlation between crime and opioid abuse rates. Many people who commit crimes are opioid abusers. They may be in need of money for their next fix. Or, they may engage in risky behavior because they’re under the influence.
Regardless of the reason, there is always a continuous cycle of people who are in jail and then going back on the streets and abusing opioids again. One of the ways that Everett, Washington is combatting this problem is by offering addiction treatment in jails. Many Snohomish County jails offer three-day detox programs. These facilities provide inmates with addiction medicines, like Suboxone, to help ease withdrawal symptoms.
There are many other addiction medicines that can help. For example, methadone and Vivitrol are also effective options.
When getting admitted into jail, inmates are screened by medical staff and nurses. They are asked a series of questions about their drug usage. They may also go through a drug assessment to see whether they are on any drugs. If they are, these assessments will determine which drugs they are on.
These programs help opioid addicts recover more comfortably and safely. These individuals are no longer left in jail cells to deal with the withdrawal symptoms themselves. It’s important to note that opioid withdrawals can turn deadly. There are cases where addicted inmates don’t get the support that they need and end up dying as a result. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.
What You Can Personally Do to Make a Difference if You Abuse Opioids
If all of this resonates with you because you’re addicted to opioids, just know that there are plenty of addiction resources in Everett, WA. The entire city has your back and wants to help you get sober.
The best thing that you can do is to reach out for help. Stop making excuses for your behavior and start looking for solutions. A huge part of getting better is looking for the right alcohol or drug rehab program. There are a lot of options to choose from. For example, you can choose between:
- Inpatient treatment programs, which will require you to move to the addiction treatment center. You’ll need to move to a rehab facility for 28 to 90 days. There, you’ll go through medical detox and also receive a bunch of different therapies and counselings. This is the most intense type of addiction treatment program available and is highly recommended for opioid abusers who struggle with intense, or even dangerous, withdrawal symptoms, as they will be under constant supervision.
- Outpatient treatment programs. These programs are just as effective, but they require less commitment. Outpatient programs allow you to live in the comfort of your own home. You’ll only need to go to the addiction treatment center whenever you need treatment. This may be anything from 9 hours a week with an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), or 6 to 8 hours a day for at least 5 days a week with a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP).
Don’t be afraid of reaching out for help. Admitting that you have a problem and staying committed to an addiction treatment program is one of the best ways that you can help yourself. You need to understand that the road to recovery is long and arduous. Have faith in the process and never give up.
Go to Support Groups and Recovery Meetings
Another important thing that you can do is to go to support groups and recovery meetings on a regular basis. There, you can find a shoulder to lean on. You can connect with others who are in similar situations, so you feel less alone.
Many studies have suggested that those go to support groups are more likely to recover and less likely to relapse. They feel a lot more motivated in the long run. They can also reach out for help whenever they need it. And, more importantly, they feel that the people that they are talking to understand where they’re coming from.
There are many different types of support groups and recovery meetings for those in Everett, Washington. There are Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings, Pills Anonymous (PA) meetings, Heroin Anonymous (HA) meetings, Self-Management, and Recovery Training (SMART) meetings and more. Finding a group that you click with is important and can make a huge difference.
How to Help an Addict
Did you know that one out of three Americans knows someone who is addicted to opioids or opiates?
There’s a good chance that you know someone who is abusing prescription opioids or even heroin. You can make a difference by reaching out to the addict so that he or she knows that you’re there. Let the addict know you’re willing to listen and to help him or her find the right addiction resources.
To get through to an addict, consider staging an intervention. Invite other people who are concerned about the addiction. At the intervention, you will:
- Talk to the addict about your concerns
- Bring up examples that demonstrate how addiction has impacted their lives
- Discuss possible recovery solutions, like an inpatient or outpatient drug rehab program
- Talk about consequences for not getting help
- Discuss how the addiction has affected the family or others around them
It’s important to keep the meeting as positive and calm as possible. Make sure that you let the addict know that you are there to help and not to judge. If you’re not sure how to stage an intervention or how to talk with an addict, you can speak with an intervention specialist or with a counselor. Get some professional insight before you take any action.
It’s important that you do it right. Otherwise, the addict may feel judged or may feel uncomfortable opening up to you any longer. A bad intervention may only make things worse. It may cause the addict to refuse help. Addiction is a very sensitive issue. Many addicts are in denial and will refuse to admit that they have a problem.
Continuing Efforts Help Lower Addiction and Overdose Rates
Addiction is not only a problem for the addict. It’s a problem for the whole community. Addiction impacts everyone. It increases crime rates and also ruins the economy. Fortunately, Everett is doing everything possible to hold the right groups responsible. This city is also taking huge initiatives to correct any wrongs that are happening.
Here, at The Evergreen at Northpoint, we are also trying to do our part. We are located in Bellevue, Washington, which is about a 30-minute drive away. We offer outpatient addiction treatment services for anyone who needs help. Those who are struggling with opioid addiction in Everett can easily get the addiction treatment services that they need from our facility. We want to help!