Heroin summit at UW reveals growing epidemic, increase in crime

By: John Knicely

Updated:

Experts on heroin gathered at the University of Washington on Monday to reveal an epidemic being fueled in western Washington by young adults and three Mexican drug cartels.  They said it all goes back to prescription painkiller addiction.
 
They’re trying to stop the next case like Evan Block, 15, when he was hit by a car in South Everett.
 
“With surgery, he was prescribed Percocet and refilled Percocet and that is how the addiction started,” said Tracy Pegg, Evan’s mom.
 
Pegg says the addiction led her son to heroin, which offered the same high for much cheaper.  He was 18 the morning she couldn't wake him.
 
“A lot of people are dying,” said Dr. Caleb Banta-Green, University of Washington’s lead researcher on opioids like heroin and prescription painkillers. 

“It's really stunning,” said Banta-Green.  “We've had more than a doubling of people coming into treatment over the last 10 years. It's entirely driven by 18-29 year olds.”
 
It's leading to more crime against people who have nothing to do with heroin. 

Snohomish County has seen a 50 percent increase in thefts. Snohomish County Sheriff’s Lt.

Robert Palmer told KIRO 7 heroin users will steal anything left outside, like yard equipment and propane tanks.  They’re looking for anything they can sell easily.
 
Doug James, the Drug Enforcement Administration special agent in charge of the Seattle division, said the Mexican drug cartels are supplying the heroin.  James said western Washington might as well be the backyard for three Mexican drug cartels.  He said they grow the poppy and process it into heroin in Mexico, then they zip it right up I-5 using smartphone apps to communicate.
 
Tuesday’s summit was about finding solutions and preventing the next Even Block.  Banta-Green says everyone should become familiar with Stopoverdose.org.  He said those who are addicted then need medication to fight it.
 
“So people can actually reverse that overdose, and that's awesome, keep them alive for another 90 minutes,” said Banta-Green.  “We want to keep them alive another 50 to 60 years.  And the best proven treatments are medication assisted treatments like Buprenorphine and Methadone.”

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