At the beginning of February, Seattle police arrested a man for delivery of narcotics. The 58-year old was selling drugs out of his RV and detectives working undercover purchased drugs from the man. When detectives searched the suspect's trailer they the detectives found 13 grams of methamphetamine and 8 grams of heroin, as well as oxycodone pills and lorazepam pills. In addition, detectives found packaging materials, a pipe, a scale, and cash.
Heroin has become an increasing problem in the Seattle area and the rest of the United States in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ("CDC"), heroin is "an illegal, highly addictive opioid drug ." Heroin can be injected, snorted, or smoked.
The number of heroin-related deaths has almost quadrupled between 2002-2013. This is a 286% increase in an 11 year period. In 2013 alone more than 8,200 people died from a heroin overdose. According to a 2014 CDC press release, between 2010-2012, the heroin death rates doubled in 28 states, which represents 56% of the population.
The people most likely to be at risk for heroin addiction are people who are also addicted to another substance like prescription opioid painkillers, cocaine, marijuana, and alcohol. In fact, "[m]ore than 9 in 10 people who used heroin also used at least one other drug ." Using multiple drugs or alcohol along with heroin increases a person's risk of an overdose. Other factors that increase the likelihood a person may be addicted to heroin are: living in a metro area, having no insurance, being on Medicaid, males, and nonHispanic whites. Young people, 18-25, are also the most at risk for addiction. The "[h]eroin use more than doubled among young adults ages 18–25 in the past decade," according to the CDC.
The heroin epidemic has reached Washington and the Seattle area. According to the Seattle Times, in 2014 in King County the number of "[f]atal overdoses linked to heroin surged by 58 percent." This accounted for almost half of the drug-related deaths, 156 deaths related to heroin and 314 overall. The article reported that this number is the highest number of drug deaths since 1997. In a report by Trust for America's Health, "Washington state ranked 23rd highest for drug overdose deaths ."
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA"), heroin seizures at the Mexican border have also increased. Seizures between 2008-2012 increased by 232% according to a 2013 report from the agency. The report attributes this to the increase in heroin production in Mexico and drug trafficker expanding into new areas.
An addiction to heroin can lead to significant legal consequences as well. In Washington offenses involving heroin can be either a Class B or Class C felony. A Class B felony has a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $25,000 if the amount of heroin involved is under 2 kg. If the amount is more than 2 kg, the sentence can be up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $100,000 plus an additional $50 for every kilogram over the initial 2 kg. A Class C felony carries a smaller penalty. A Class C penalty can result in a maximum of 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. If a person is convicted of intentionally distributing heroin the penalties can face up to two years in jail and a $2000 fine. Because every case is different the severity of the sentence depends on the facts of that particular case.