Meth and opioids cause spike in overdoses in Spokane, Wash.

Fatal drug overdoses involving methamphetamine increased by nearly 70 percent from 2015 to 2016 in Spokane County, Wash., according to a report from The Spokesman-Review citing data from the county medical examiner's office.

Twenty-nine people in Spokane County died of a drug overdose involving meth in 2015. In 2016, that number jumped to 49, according to the report. Despite the surge in meth overdoses, the drug is often overshadowed by opioids in the public discourse surrounding drug abuse. Public health officials say this is partially because drug users are taking the drugs in tandem, according to the Spokesman-Review.

Meth is a stimulant that can cause fatal overdoses by straining the heart and the circulatory system. Opioids like heroin and oxycodone are depressants that suppress breathing, which can ultimately result in fatal respiratory failure.

"When you do both at the same time you compound the effects of both drugs. One doesn't counteract the other," said Mike Lopez, medical services manager for the Spokane Fire Department, according to the Spokesman-Review.

A 2015 survey conducted by researchers at the University of Washington's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute in Seattle found 91 percent of opioid users across 22 Spokane needle exchanges reported using meth in the last three months. Additionally, close to one-third said they'd used heroin and meth on the same occasion, according to the report.

More articles on opioids: 
State Senate passes 8 bills designed to address New York opioid crisis 
CDC: Infants born with opioid withdrawal more likely to experience educational difficulties 
Rate of opioid abuse, overdoses climbs among middle aged, elderly

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