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UW study reveals troubling trend among drug users in Washington state

Adrian Florez

A new study from the University of Washington reveals a troubling trend among drug users in the state. Increasingly, people seeking treatment for opioid addiction also are addicted to the powerful stimulant methamphetamine.

The study looked at data from 800 patients in Seattle and Olympia who were receiving medication to treat their opioid-use disorder. Close to a third reported using methamphetamine. Those who did were more than twice as likely to drop out of treatment.   

“This is emerging as a worrisome problem,” said Dr. Judith Tsui, one of the study’s authors and a clinician at the UW School of Medicine.  “It’s not something we should ignore as it might undermine successful treatment outcomes.”

Meth isn’t a new problem in Washington, but it appears to be getting worse. 

Alisa Solberg, the treatment services program manager for Tacoma-Pierce County, says treating meth addiction is especially difficult — there aren’t effective medications like there are for opioids. And there aren’t enough places that offer in-patient treatment in the area. 

“That is really another choke point. What we are seeing is that as our patient base deals with concurrent methamphetamine use that is particular challenge,” Solberg said.

Nationally meth is on the rise, too. In Washington between 2008 and 2016, overdose deaths from the drug quadrupled.

Will Stone is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.