Tuesday overdose death the third of the year in Walla Walla area

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WALLA WALLA – The death Tuesday of a 20-year-old woman in Waitsburg marked the third drug-related death in the Walla Walla area since the first of the year.

Illegal drug use is suspected, but Walla Walla County Coroner Richard Greenwood said a toxicology report is pending. Greenwood added that the woman’s boyfriend had also overdosed but had been transported to a local hospital for treatment.

The Sheriff’s Office said it would be issuing a statement on the case later today.

According to Greenwood, there have been several non-fatal overdose cases already this year, in addition to the three deaths.

In an interview, Greenwood said the rate of overdoses in the county is a continuation of a spike that began in 2012.

“Last year really caught our attention,” Greenwood said. “And this year hasn’t slowed up.”

In 2012 Greenwood reported 46 drug- or alcohol-related deaths. Of those, nearly 40 involved alcohol and 11 involved illicit drugs. Five deaths involved alcohol and prescription drugs. Greenwood also reported the death of an unborn baby at 38 weeks due to the mother’s consumption of illicit drugs.

“We had a rash of older gentlemen who literally drank themselves to death,” Greenwood said, adding there were two deaths linked to over-the-counter medication.

Walla Walla Fire Chief Bob Yancey also noted an increase in overdoses and “illegal drug related calls” in 2013.

In 2012 there were 21 overdoses, including suicides, and nine calls related to illegal drugs. In 2013 overdoses rose to 31 and illegal drug related calls spiked to 24, according to Yancey.

Calls relating to alcohol or withdrawal symptoms rose from 70 to 80 from 2012 to 2013.

Both men said that tracking overdoses and drug related deaths is very tricky because there are often a number of other symptoms and issues involved.

Greenwood pointed out that toxicology reports often take 90 days to get back, further complicating reporting, and that data tracking at a state level doesn’t always link deaths to alcohol or drugs.

“If you die of chronic alcoholism, that’s considered a “natural” death,” Greenwood said.

He added that other drug related causes of death can include infections from injecting drugs with a needle, or even dying in a vehicle collision.

“A lot of deaths won’t be out-and-out drug overdoses, but complications thereof,” Greenwood said.

Capt. Chris Buttice of the Walla Walla Police Department said that drug use continues to be an issue in Walla Walla, and that overdoses, like drug use in general, seems to run in cycles. As police begin to close down one supply chain, another type of drug may increase.

Buttice added that overdoses, especially with heroin, can spike when users get new sources of the drug that have higher concentrations, or “purity” levels.

Luke Hegdal can be reached at lukehegdal@wwub.com or 526-8326.

Comments

namvet60 11 months ago

Will probably get worse before getting better. Until this economy can get turned around and put these people to work you have a lot of people on unemployment and a lot time on there hands - Hello Drugs and Alcohol.

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wwmothx2 11 months ago

If they are unemployed, therefore using drugs and alcohol, how do they afford the drugs and alcohol? One can always play the blame game, but in all actuality it comes down to a matter of choice. When unemployed, their job is LOOKING/seeking employment for 8 hours a day. Not an hour or two skimming the internet job sights for employment. I am talking walking into businesses and making phone calls. There should be no time for drug/alcohol use because they are so consumed with finding employment. This tells me that these are not just temporary drug users because they are UNemployed.

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namvet60 11 months ago

I made a broad statement - No blame game. I was addressing the economy and jobs more than anything - don't get paranoid.

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downhillracer 11 months ago

You were addressing nothing, only fulfilling your roll as the on-line gadfly.

Don't feed the trolls.

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namvet60 11 months ago

You sir are an embarrassment to society with your ignorance. Go back to reading your "Rules for Radicals".

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chicoli 11 months ago

Downhillracer, Mr. namvet is like one of those cartoons. He has the ability to jump out of his postings, and into the private lives of readers spewing unwarranted epithet and gratuitous insults under the cover of anonimity. We should request from the UB for the removal of his offensive postings!

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wwmothx2 11 months ago

And I, Namvet60, was addressing your broad "assumption." You know what they say about assumption. "It's the mother of all F***k ups." As long as people continue to blame the economy, the government, or whatever/whomever they choose to blame, there is no accountability. Accountability is what will promote better choices.

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namvet60 11 months ago

Excuse me - didn't mean for my comment to take you off the deep end. My accountability lies at the feet of the government for the faltering economy ($17 trillion in debt, etc.) and on the ever growing unemployment numbers ( increased food stamp recipients and the rise in the poverty level, etc.) which does not have a good outlook. My accountability lies at the feet of the government and the blame is where you want to project it. Individual accountability promotes better choices but when your choices are limited by the government - think again.

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PeggyJoy 11 months ago

People from all walks of life, unemployed/employed, blue collar workers to professionals abuse drugs in this country. It's about making choices, but it, also, has a lot to do with socializing. Many foolish people will do anything to belong to some group or become friends with someone, even destroying themselves in the process.

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PeggyJoy 11 months ago

Here are two web sites, that EVERY PARENT should view with their teenager. It's time, that parents actually educated their kids on how dangerous drugs are, instead to just telling them not to take drugs. Who, with any degree of intelligence would actually use meth, which destroyed your brain, rots out your teeth, sores all over your body, etc.

http://www.crystalmethaddiction.org/Crystal_Meth_User_Pictures.htm

http://fav-meth-head-of-the-day.com/faces-of-meth/

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