Audit shows alarming increase in meth use in Seattle; reward system proposed to keep users clean

SEATTLE — Methamphetamine use is skyrocketing in Seattle, according to a new report, and an increase in fatal overdoses has led to a new proposal by city officials.

An audit showed the drug is involved in 74% of overdose deaths for people experiencing homelessness.

Meth overdose deaths are increasing year after year.

King County reported 98 meth-involved deaths in 2016. That increased to 365 deaths in 2021.

As of Oct. 6, there has already been 318 meth-involved deaths this year.

The audit was requested by Seattle City Council members Andrew Lewis and Lisa Herbold, who are proposing what they call “contingency management,” a reward system for people to stay clean.

For example, someone using meth would submit urine tests to track their recovery progress.

If the results are negative, the person would receive something like a gift card or voucher.

The value of the reward would increase every time a negative test is submitted.

If the test results are positive for drugs or the person misses an appointment, the next reward reverts to the original amount.

The average total reward someone would be able to receive through a 12-week intervention would be about $300.

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