Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute

In the News: Overdose Deaths in WA Up 30% in 2020

Caleb Banta-Green
ADAI’s Dr. Banta-Green: “The general public needs better information that substance use disorder is a treatable health condition.”

According to preliminary data from the state Department of Health, as reported by the Seattle Times, fatal drug overdoses in Washington State increased by more than 30% in 2020 compared to the previous year — an increase more than twice as large as any other year in the past decade. Deadly opioid overdoses increased even faster, by nearly 40%. Calls to the Washington Recovery Helpline from people seeking help for their or a loved one’s substance use also increased — by 90% and for nearly all substances — in 2020.

“It is reasonable to believe the psychological, social and economic impacts of COVID-19 led to an increase in drug use,” said Kristen Maki, a spokesperson for the state Department of Health.

ADAI researcher Caleb Banta-Green said COVID is likely working in two ways to increase overdose deaths: people turning to substances to deal with the stress of the pandemic, and people using substances alone because of social distancing measures.

Read the full story by David Gutman in the Seattle Times.

Dr. Banta-Green also spoke to KUOW on this subject, including more information about fentanyl’s role in the increase in deaths: ”I’ve never seen a substance like fentanyl in my 25 years of work, something that is so potent, that is so cheap, with such potential for addiction and overdose.”

Read/listen to the KUOW interview here.