An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Health Officials Doubt Overdose Levels Will Wane Soon

Courtesy of Drug Enforcement Administration

Spokane public health officials aren’t optimistic that the county’s drug overdose rate is going to decrease anytime soon. But if it does, one unusual factor may have something to do with it.

Dan Barth from Spokane County’s Covid Behavioral Health Task Force says the pandemic and its requirements that people stay home played a big role in the rise in drug problems.
“Overdoses were quite high in the fall and, more so, the winter of 2020, when we were really in what would be considered the darkest part of the pandemic," he said.
He says the number of overdoses went down in January and February, but rebounded again in March and into the spring of 2021. He says one result of that is that emergency medical technicians used the overdose-reversing drug naloxone about twice as often after March to revive people. He says another reason for that rise was the unpredictability of the fentanyl-laced pills people were ingesting.
“I have a couple who have been using together for years," said Samantha Carroll, an overdose prevention specialist at the Spokane Regional Health District. “They’ve been using the same amount of heroin for years and years and they began to overdose.”

She says the male partner nearly died recently, saved thanks to naloxone. The experience scared them.

“And just the other day she came in and she said enough. We’re getting treatment. We’re going to get on methadone. We’re seeing more and more of that, people getting scared of this fentanyl that’s coming around. It’s not like it was before," Carroll said.

But Misty Challinor, the health district’s director or treatment services, says she doesn’t think enough people will be scared straight to make an immediate dent in the county’s overdose numbers.