Snohomish County’s heroin problem could be linked to LA drug sales

Aug 18, 2016, 3:13 PM

It’s well known that the heroin epidemic in the Puget Sound region has spiraled out of control. Maybe less known is that OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma and drug dealers from Los Angeles might be – at least partially – to blame.

The LA Times reports that drug dealers were working with doctors and pharmacies to gather “enormous quantities of the drug.” And while Purdue Pharma was tracking what the Times describes as “voluminous prescriptions” being written, the company didn’t share that information or try to stop the massive flow of the addictive opioid until more than one million pills were distributed onto the black market.

Harriet Ryan, one of three reporters who worked on the LA Times’ story, told Seattle’s Morning News said the amount of OxyContin being sold should have been a red flag. All companies, she said, track how their medicines are selling so they can figure out how to market them and find more people to market to.

“Purdue could see which doctors were only writing prescriptions for 80-milligram pills,” she told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross.

Those pills were, until 2010, considered by many to be equal to, or better than heroin. However, changes in how the pill was made prevented them from being as mistreated as they were. That’s why people, including those in western Washington, switched to heroin, Ryan explained.

One of the hardest hit areas was Everett. The Times reports OxyContin “devastated” the area.

“At the height of the drug’s popularity, it was a factor in more than half of the crimes in Snohomish County,” the Times reports.

The pills, which were being purchased from a phony clinic, would be transported up to Everett and then dispersed to surrounding communities.

Since then, the area in Snohomish County has struggled to bounce back.

A sales tax to help fund law enforcement and fight the opioid epidemic was on the primary ballot. The extra tax money would have funded more deputies, drug and alcohol treatment, and social services. Voters narrowly rejected the tax; about 50.1 percent voted no.

Meanwhile, dozens die of overdoses every year. The Seattle Times reports more than 400 people died of opioid-related overdoses in Snohomish County between 2011 and 2014.

Dave Ross on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM
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Snohomish County’s heroin problem could be linked to LA drug sales