At a time when the United States is under a national public health emergency for the opioid crisis, it’s no surprise that the state of Washington is struggling, too. Opioids are certainly a big part of the problem, as rates of first-time treatment admissions for opiates have doubled across Washington recently. However, this crisis also extends to other drugs. In fact, 77% of substance abuse deaths in 2018 involved multiple drugs.

These are the top 5 most used drugs in the state of Washington:

#1: Methamphetamine

Meth is the drug that Washington police most often have to send to the crime lab for testing after finding it during arrests. A DEA agent described the meth problem vividly when he said the Pacific Northwest is drowning in this drug. In 2016, 364 overdose deaths involved meth, meaning the rate of deaths from this drug has quadrupled since 2008.

Other facts about meth in Washington include:

  • The DEA seized over 3,400 pounds of meth in 2019, a record amount.
  •  Recently, more people are dying from meth in Washington than at the peak of the major meth wave in the early 2000s, as meth death rates were 4 times higher in 2017 than 2005.
  • Many people are able to quit heroin but are still addicted to meth, as it’s cheap and easy to find, and there’s no replacement drug to use during meth treatment like there is for heroin.

#2: Heroin

Heroin use in the state of Washington has been steadily climbing since about 2011, causing more deaths than ever. In 2017 alone, heroin abuse led to 306 deaths in Washington. Also, this drug was the second most common drug police found and sent to the crime lab to get tested.

Take a look at a few facts about heroin in the state of Washington:

  • In fall of 2019, an undercover drug bust at a Tacoma hotel led to a man getting arrested for 10 ounces of heroin, $14,000 cash, and a gun.
  • In December of 2019, police arrested a North Seattle man after they found 215 grams of heroin on him, in addition to fentanyl, prescription pills, and two guns.
  • Due to the sheer number of heroin overdoses, Washington recently began allowing people to buy Naloxone—otherwise known as Narcan—at pharmacies without a prescription to treat overdoses.
  • In 2017, about 3,200 Washington residents were saved when they were given Naloxone after they overdosed.

#3: Marijuana

Recreational marijuana use is legal in the state of Washington, and of course it doesn’t cause deadly overdoses like heroin and meth do. But it’s one of the most commonly abused drugs in this state, ranking third behind meth and heroin. Now that it’s legal, marijuana use has increased in this state.

Here are some facts about marijuana use in Washington:

  • Though marijuana is only legal for adults, it’s still affecting minors, as a study found 10th graders who live with an adult who uses marijuana are over five times as likely to use this drug themselves.
  • Of nearly 300 calls to Washington Poison Center, the people most likely to call were in the 13-to-19 age group.
  • Nationwide, 6% of high school seniors smoke marijuana daily, but that number in Washington state is 10%.

#4: Fentanyl

Fentanyl has increasingly become a problem nationwide, and the state of Washington is no exception. In the first half of 2018, Washington saw an almost 70% increase in deaths caused by fentanyl compared to the first half of 2017. In fact, 66 people in just one county died after taking fentanyl in 2018.  

Read on to learn more about fentanyl in Washington:

  • Fentanyl is a synthetic drug that’s 30 to 50 times stronger than heroin, so it only takes a small amount—as little as 0.25 mg—to kill someone.
  • In October 2019, two teen boys died after taking fentanyl-laced opiates in Washington.
  • For every 1 death from fentanyl, there are about 10 people who survived an overdose.

#5: Cocaine

Though cocaine is still among the most abused drugs in Washington, it is on the decline. In 2006, it was the drug of choice for 205 drug court participants. That number dropped to just 18 in 2017!

Look at these facts about cocaine in Washington:

  • Cocaine is involved in much less police evidence testing in King County than it used to be, with only 89 cases in 2017—a huge improvement from 1,578 cases in 2005.
  • In 2018, 86 people died of a cocaine overdose in King County.
  • The number of people admitted for cocaine treatment decreased by 50% between 2011 and 2017.

Get Treatment for Substance Abuse in Washington

If you’ve abused these or other drugs in the state of Washington, help is just a phone call away. Contact your nearest treatment center today to learn about your treatment options. 


  1. Fentanyl-related overdose deaths up 70 percent from last year in Washington. (2018, December 6)
  2. KOMO News Staff. (2019, October 2). King Co. Sheriff issues public warning after 2 Sammamish teens die of fentanyl overdoses
  3. Meth is back in King County, bigger than it’s been for decades. (2019, June 19)
  4. ‘The Pacific Northwest is drowning in meth:’ 17 arrested in major drug trafficking operation. (2019, October 24)

We would love your feedback.

Was this article helpful?

Treatment Questions? Call 24/7.

(855) 265-2123