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Opioid trends across Washington state: Crime lab

Crime lab data from the Washington State Patrol Forensic Laboratory Services Bureau: An "opioid case" refers to a unique FLSB case number with at least one result positive for any opioid (see more on opioid sub-types below). Only crime lab submissions from an agency clearly operating within a single county were associated with a county. Those originating from multi-county agencies, such as cross-jurisdiction drug task forces, some Washington State Patrol detachments, state or federal parks agencies, or federal law enforcement, are included in the state-wide rate. Changes in county rates may therefore reflect changes in the share of seizures by such agencies. Rates in the bubble/motion chart below are smoothed via a running 3-year average.

Crime lab cases reflect a combination of who gets arrested, which cases get prosecuted, which items get sent to a lab for testing, and whether the items have sufficient quantity to be tested. Rates and trends may thus be influenced by policy and practice factors such as attention to distribution and diversion of non-violent arrestees.

Crime lab cases involving any opioid: Most growth outside King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties

Data sources: Forensic Laboratory Services Bureau, Washington State Patrol (cases), Washington State Office of Financial Management (population)

Opioid cases by subtype over time

We track statewide crime lab cases testing positive for any opioid over time, comparing cases involving heroin to the number involving any other kind of opioid. The latter is further broken down into two categories. The first is categorically legal opioids, which includes legally manufactured pharmaceuticals and illegally manufactured versions of the same drugs. Because the source of the drug is not documented or known, fentanyl and legal fentanyl analogues are in this category. The second sub-category, non-Rx non-heroin, includes opium as well as illegal synthetics such as acetyl fentanyl and is quite small. Turn off the other series (by clicking the entries in the legend) to see changes in this sub-category over time. More details about these new synthetic opioids are available in our comparison of heroin and fentanyl in Washington. See our new and emerging drugs in crime lab evidence page for an explanation of why crime lab cases dropped in 2021.

Data source: Forensic Laboratory Services Bureau, Washington State Patrol. 2021 counts and onward are impacted by the 2/25/2021 Washington State v Blake decision.

Heroin cases: Spreading to rural areas

Data sources: Forensic Laboratory Services Bureau, Washington State Patrol (cases), Washington State Office of Financial Management (population)

Other opioid cases: Scattered increases and decreases

Data sources: Forensic Laboratory Services Bureau, Washington State Patrol (cases), Washington State Office of Financial Management (population)