In a new report released January 9, the Snohomish Health District estimates that between 5,000 and 10,000 people in Snohomish County are suffering from opioid use disorder. It’s likely that another 35,000 to 80,000 people are misusing opioids.
“We focused on opioid misuse and opioid use disorder because they are considered the two ends of the spectrum for diagnosable patterns that can lead to overdose and death,” said Dr. Mark Beatty, health officer for the Snohomish Health District. “This data will aid the Health District and the Opioid Response Multi-agency Coordination Group with evidence-based decision making, assessment of interventions, and other planning purposes.”
This data is the result of several months of in-depth research and analysis completed by health officer Dr. Mark Beatty. In his report, Opioid Use Disorder and Opioid Misuse in Snohomish County: Using Capture-Recapture to Estimate the Burden of Disease, Dr. Beatty applied a method originally created to estimate wildlife populations and recently used to estimate the prevalence of kidney disease.
Disease burden estimates are challenging to complete in populations that are difficult to identify or pinpoint. It becomes increasingly more complex when diseases like opioid use disorder are not a notifiable condition, such as measles or whooping cough. While the published literature is sparse, it’s possible to use surveillance for opioid events in order to estimate the disease burden. This requires an additional method known as capture-recapture.
For this method, Dr. Beatty accessed FirstWatch—a proprietary record management system used for EMS calls across the county—to pull data for all overdose calls recorded in July 2018. During that month, there were 73 opioid-related overdoses identified. Utilizing data compiled by Providence Regional Medical Center Everett and the Health District, made possible through a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant funded through the Washington State Department of Health, Dr. Beatty then reviewed patients seen in the emergency department. Of those 29 overdose patients at the hospital, 18 were also found in the FirstWatch data. That number translates into approximately 1,400 individuals in Snohomish County hospitalized annually because of opioids.
Using a model published by the CDC that estimates for every one death there are 32 emergency department visits for misuse and abuse, Dr. Beatty modified the calculations using Snohomish County estimates identified from the capture-recapture study.
For more information on efforts being done through the Opioid Response MAC Group, please go to www.snohomishoverdoseprevention.com. This website and accompanying social media accounts were developed to be a one-stop shop for resources. Whether trying to understand the problem, prevent addiction, or save a life, this is a place to find information for that first next step.