Seattle, Washington is seeing an epidemic of homelessness as a consequence of drug addiction. Despite some debate, people are in overwhelming agreement that the culprit of this homelessness epidemic is almost entirely heroin.
A recent shooting in a homeless camp in the jungle has reignited a heated debate over how to address the problems caused by drugs. The shooting was the result of an attempted debt collection and drug deal gone bad. All three shooting suspects are brothers under the age of 18.
There has been a recent outcry for drastic change to how the problem of drug addiction is being addressed. The current system is clearly not working. The increase in prescription opiate drugs is creating a new generation of heroin addicts.
The number of heroin addicts admitted to treatment centers has nearly tripled in a six-year span from 2009 to 2015. Heroin is becoming more and more potent than in years past, adding to the potential for overdose and death.
In 2014, heroin overdose deaths in the United States reached 10,574, over five times higher than just 15 years prior.
Western Washington state and the rest of the United States is seeing a drug epidemic that affects people regardless of gender, race, age, and tax bracket. Used needles are littering the streets. The problem is so acute that the city of Seattle is offering classes on how to safely clean up used needles.
The number of people seeking help with addiction is greater than the amount of help that is available. One reason for the influx of opiate use and subsequent homelessness seems to be that the current system for treating addiction is overloaded.
At least 150 people are on the waiting list for methadone clinics in Seattle. Additionally, some estimate that only 35 percent of opiate addicts who are willing to get treatment for their addiction are able to get the help they need.
The closure of several treatment centers as a result of the recent recession is also being cited as a reason for the shortage of treatment availability. Funding is needed to reopen these treatment centers and to open new clinics in areas starved for a solution.
One of the main hurdles to overcoming addiction is being able to get help to the individual when they are willing to receive that help. It is a tragedy that so many are seeking help to no avail due to lack of funding in one of the most affluent parts of the country – thanks to Microsoft and Starbucks.
Clearly, a new approach is needed to find a working solution to the heroin epidemic. The “war on drugs” failed.
State and local government are dealing with the problem ineptly. Some people are voicing the need for this epidemic to be treated as it would be if it were any other plague, invoking the use of army tents and treating the ill en mass. Simply pitch tents and hit the problem head on instead of talking endlessly while the piles of used needles get higher on the streets.
We need more focus on the solution rather than funding treatment of symptoms of the disease. Homeless encampments are synonymous with Heroin. Instead of funding the construction of new homeless cities, the money should be used to address the root problem – heroin.