Beds available now! Call for same-day admission.

Drug and Alcohol Abuse in Washington

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, help is available. Speak with a Recovery Advocate by calling (855) 602-7202 now.

Data shows deaths from drug overdoses continue to rise for residents of Washington. As of April 4, 2022, drug-related overdose deaths were more than 2,000 in 2021. This figure represents a 66% increase compared to 2019, with the state’s Chief Science Officer describing it as a “public health emergency.”

One in nine of the state’s drug deaths involved synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl. Methamphetamine also makes up a growing share of deaths related to drugs. It’s a difficult reality for state residents and a trend also reflected around the U.S.

Substance Abuse Overview

Substance abuse is using prescription or illegal drugs, as well as alcohol, for reasons other than how they’re intended to be used. Substance abuse also includes using large amounts. When someone is misusing substances, it can lead to problems in all areas of their life — socially, physically, emotionally, and at school or in careers.

People have different reasons for using substances. People with a co-occurring mental health disorder, such as anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder, may turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate untreated symptoms. Substance abuse can also stem from a history of unresolved trauma, a desire to fit in, or it can spiral from more casual use.


Marijuana is known by names like weed, pot and Mary Jane. The drug comes from the flowers of the Cannabis sativa plant. The psychoactive ingredient in the drug is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. Marijuana also includes hundreds of other chemicals and compounds, many of which are related to THC.

While many states are legalizing the use of the drug recreationally for people 18 and older, it has the potential to lead to addiction and dependence. Data shows around 30% of people who use marijuana may have some level of marijuana use disorder. If someone starts using it before age 18, they are anywhere from four to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than someone who began using it after 18.


Benzodiazepines are sedating, calming drugs. They depress the central nervous system and raise the levels of GABA in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter that has an inhibitory effect.

Benzodiazepines include prescription drugs like XanaxValium and Klonopin. When misused, these medicines are often combined with other drugs, such as opioids, leading to an increased risk of an overdose. Benzodiazepines also have a potential for abuse and dependence on their own.


Stimulants include both prescription drugs and illicit drugs. Prescription stimulants, like Adderall and Ritalin, are often used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). College students and young adults often abuse them to reduce their appetite or stay awake for long periods.

Illegal stimulants include cocaine and methamphetamine. Cocaine comes from coca leaves, while methamphetamine or meth is often made from over-the-counter ingredients in illegal labs.


Opiates and opioids are a class of drugs that include the illicit drugs heroin and prescription pain medicines like oxycodonehydrocodonemorphine and fentanyl. Opioids affect receptors on nerve cells in the brain and the body. As well as pain relief, they can create euphoria and relaxation.

Opioid-involved overdose deaths have been named a public health emergency throughout the country. They are addictive and, when abused, can slow the central nervous system down so much that it leads to overdose or death.


Dissociative drugs can change perceptions of sound and sight. They produce feelings of detachment or dissociation from the surrounding environment and oneself. Dissociative drugs aren’t hallucinogens but the effects are similar. Phencyclidine (PCP) is one of the most commonly used dissociative drugs. Others include ketamine and dextromethorphan (DXM).


Hallucinogens are a class of drugs that change how someone is aware of their surroundings, feelings and thoughts. LSD is one of the most powerful chemicals with mind-altering effects. LSD comes from lysergic acid, found in fungus growing on grains. Peyote, which comes from a cactus or can be synthetic, is another hallucinogen, as is psilocybin, which comes from some mushrooms.

Alcohol Abuse Overview

Alcohol is one of the most deadly and widely abused substances worldwide. Excessive use of alcohol led to more than 140,000 deaths in the U.S. between 2015 and 2019. The people who died had their life shortened by an average of 26 years.

There are both short- and long-term risks with alcohol use. Short-term risks include injuries, accidents and alcohol poisoning. Long-term health effects include cancer, a weakened immune system, and alcohol use disorders or alcohol dependence.

Alcohol use disorders and dependence are serious conditions. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be the most dangerous and deadly of all substances. When someone is dependent on alcohol, they often require professional detox treatment to manage the risks of seizures and death.

Drug and Alcohol Abuse in the State of Washington

In Washington, since the pandemic, there has been a rise in overdose deaths, excessive alcohol use, and mental health problems. For example, in Washington, drug overdose deaths went from 15.5 per 100,000 in 2015 to 22.4 per 100,000 in 2020. The number of people in Washington reporting illicit drug use has increased among adolescents and adults and is slightly higher than the national percentage.

Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse in Washington

In Washington, the percentage of females who said they’d engaged in binge drinking in the past 30 days was around 18%, and the number was similar for men. Binge drinking is four or more drinks on one occasion for females and five or more for males. Rates of reported excessive drinking were 23% for adults between the ages of 18 and 44 and just over 15% for adults between the ages of 45 and 64.

Marijuana Abuse and Addiction in Washington

In 2015, the prevalence of marijuana use within the past 30 days among adults was 14%. Among adults, the use of marijuana in Washington is more prevalent among males and younger adults under the age of 35. One in six 10th graders in the state said they’d used marijuana in the past month, and one-third of teens say they perceive little risk to weekly use of marijuana.

Benzodiazepine Abuse and Addiction in Washington

According to state crime and forensics information, there is an increase in benzodiazepines on the streets of Washington. There is especially an uptick in so-called designer benzodiazepines, which are non-prescription. In 2020, these drugs were found in around one-quarter of all drug seizures in the state. Then in 2020, they were found in almost half; in 2021, they made up more than half of all benzodiazepine-positive crime lab cases in the state.

Opiate Abuse and Addiction in Washington

Opioid overdose deaths in Washington went up from 2013 through 2020. Heroin deaths primarily drove the rise in deaths, but also fentanyl. Deaths involving prescription opioids that are more commonly prescribed have decreased since 2009. The highest increases and death rates are often in rural counties, including Yakima, Jefferson, and Mason. In 2020, there were 1,188 opioid overdose deaths in the state, making up almost 69% of the total drug overdose deaths.

Stimulant Abuse and Addiction in Washington

Methamphetamine use and associated deaths have been going up in the past ten years. Around half of all drug poisonings in Washington in 2020 involving meth also involved an opioid. Many of the counties across the state had significant increases in meth-related deaths. Some smaller counties like Okanogan and Pacific were above the state average. Methamphetamine is the substance most commonly found in drug seizures.

In 2021, the percentage of adults in Washington who said they’d used drugs in the past 12 months was higher than the national average. This included stimulants and excluded cannabis.

Hallucinogen Abuse and Addiction in Washington

Washington State is considering legalizing certain hallucinogenic drugs. The Psilocybin Wellness and Opportunity Act would let individuals consume products with psilocybin and psilocin, which are the active ingredients in psychedelic mushrooms. Seattle is also the largest city in the United States to decriminalize psychedelics.

Dissociative Abuse and Addiction in Washington

Overall, the use of dissociative and hallucinogenic drugs is fairly low in the United States, including in Washington. Even so, according to the U.S. Justice Department, there is an uptick in the use of dissociative drugs. Ketamine and LSD are commonly used by teens and young adults at clubs and all-night parties.

Washington State Drug Laws

In February 2021, the state Supreme Court in Washington struck down what was considered the primary criminal drug possession law. The law made possessing a controlled substance a felony, which was punishable by up to five years in prison. Now, police don’t arrest people for simple possession in the state.

  • The state may enact something like Oregon has, which is a drug decriminalization law. Possessing small amounts of drugs, including cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin, was decriminalized.
  • There are also new models of criminal justice in the state where police are working on diverting people away from jail for substances and toward addiction treatment and services.
  • While possession is decriminalized, drug trafficking of any kind is still a felony in the state. Trafficking offenses can be charged in federal or state court, and it’s also a federal crime.
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia in the state is a misdemeanor, but paraphernalia for marijuana is not illegal.

Signs and Symptoms of Drug Addiction

While the symptoms and signs will differ depending on the drug being abused, there are certain symptoms that are similar to multiple substances.

Physical symptoms of drug addiction can include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Skin problems
  • Tremors
  • Slurred speech
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Unnaturally pale skin
  • Unusual odors
  • Shallow breathing
  • Frequent nausea

Psychological and behavioral symptoms can include:

  • Restlessness
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Self-isolation
  • Unusual mood swings
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Stealing money or medications
  • Uncharacteristic lying

Alcohol and Drug Rehab in Washington

While Washington has some of  the most relaxed drug laws in the country, it’s still important to remember that something being technically legal doesn’t make it safe. Addiction to drugs and alcohol can destroy your physical, mental and emotional health. There is help available. Learn more about our evidence-based, individualized treatment programs in our Washington treatment facilities.

The Recovery Village Residential Treatment Center

The Recovery Village Ridgefield Drug and Alcohol Rehab focuses on a simple, straightforward philosophy — your recovery starts with evidence-based, compassionate care. A personalized addiction treatment plan is developed by our licensed medical and therapeutic team; this plan may include several levels of care, including:

Our facilities are in a safe, peaceful, and private setting with calming amenities and caring, experienced professionals ready to assist you.

The Recovery Village Ridgefield Detox Center

Detoxing from drugs or alcohol is a critical first step. A medically-assisted detox program provides the foundation to begin your recovery journey. Our medical detox programs include 24/7 clinical monitoring and care, a quiet, comfortable environment, medication management when needed, and individual counseling for the greatest chance at a successful recovery.

Get Started Today

Get in touch with us today to learn more about alcohol and drug rehab in Washington. We can help you learn more about programs, explore available options and discover what’s right for your needs, or the needs of your loved one.


View Sources