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A Look at Drug Use and Rehab in Washington State

Drug and alcohol abuse has been a problem in Washington State for a number of years. Since 2008, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has surveyed drug and alcohol use in America. The most recent result of this survey reveals that Washington ranks 23rd in the U.S. in drug use and number three overall in the percentage of adults using drugs.

In another survey conducted in 2021, researchers found that the state faced a 66% increase in overdose deaths compared to the previous survey in 2019. Some main problems that are associated with alcohol and drug use include unemployment, low income, poverty, and homelessness.

Many people turn to drugs to cope with these and other problems. This has prompted lawmakers and law enforcement officials to step up their efforts to combat this social health issue with measures that include reforms to drug regulation laws. Washington state is still last with the fewest numbers of people receiving treatment for drug abuse. Drug rehab can be one way to help the state reduce this problem.

The Dangers and Costs of Drug Abuse

Drug abuse damages an individual’s health and general well-being. It is a habit that causes a person to continually use drugs and alcohol despite their negative effects. Drug abuse can also be financially costly to both the user and the general public. According to SAMHSA, drug abuse costs the nation $151.4 billion a year and is one of the costliest health problems in the country.

Commonly Abused Drugs in Washington

In Washington, drug use trends are similar to other areas of the country with heroin and prescription drugs a major issue. According to data tracking law enforcement seizures and crime lab testing, the most commonly abused drugs in the state include cannabis, heroin, prescription opioids, and methamphetamine. Alcohol abuse is also a significant problem in the state with 33% of all driving-related deaths involving alcohol.


According to recent statistics, nearly 28% of adults in Washington reported using cannabis in the past year. Even though marijuana was legalized in 2012, several restrictions were put in place. Marijuana can only be legally purchased and possessed by persons over the age of 21 with valid photo IDs. It is unlawful to use marijuana in public areas or drive under the influence of the drug. While some view it as harmless, marijuana can be addictive and lead to various issues. The active substance in marijuana, THC, has been shown to increase brain activity and create a high. Long-term use leads to problems with coordination, memory, and depression.

Prescription Opioids

The most commonly abused prescription drugs in Washington include opioid painkillers, depressants, and stimulants. Prescription opioid medication abuse is a serious problem, particularly the abuse of prescription opioids. As in other areas of the country, Washington has seen a significant rise in opioid abuse and overdoses in recent years.

Recent statistics show that the rates of overdoses from synthetic opioids, in particular, has gone up significantly since 2015. This class of drugs includes fentanyl, which is a major problem throughout the United States. The number of heroin overdoses in Washington has remained relatively steady over the last few years, but they are much higher than they were just a decade ago.

Drug Rehab in Washington

Drug rehabilitation programs seek to change the culture and behavior of people who have become addicted to drugs. They incorporate elements of treatment, therapy, and education. Drug rehabilitation programs are designed to treat various types of addictions that affect brain chemistry.

According to SAMHSA, there are over 400 drug recovery institutions in Washington. Several treatment options are available, depending on the type and severity of the addiction.

Inpatient programs

Inpatient or residential treatment centers have many facilities in the state of Washington. These programs offer private and safe environments for patients to be monitored and treated by staff 24/7. These programs are designed to provide the best possible treatment for patients with more severe drug abuse problems. This can include a combination of therapy and medications to help them live sober and productive lives. These programs typically range in length from 28 to 90 days.

Short-Term Inpatient Treatment

Short-term hospital or inpatient treatment programs typically focus on those with less severe drug addiction issues. They provide a safe patient environment that can provide a successful rehabilitation experience. Short-term inpatient programs are often employed as a “wake-up call” for those who have become used to a life of drug abuse. They may also be used in conjunction with outpatient treatment to help patients achieve lasting results and maintain sobriety.

Long-Term Inpatient Treatment

Long-term treatment programs are typically directed at those who have been using drugs for an extended period and who have developed an environment of drug abuse. They provide intensive treatment that can be necessary to treat drug addiction in severe cases. This program typically lasts between 60 to 90 days

Outpatient Programs

Outpatient treatment therapies, also known as “partial hospitalization,” usually occur at an outpatient facility or treatment center. These programs are often designed as follow-up programs to inpatient stays. A patient will be admitted to the program for a scheduled period, after which they are discharged to continue their recovery on their own.

In an intensive outpatient program, the emphasis is less on the patient and more on their environment. This option is often chosen by families who want the flexibility to help their loved ones in a less medical and more personalized atmosphere. The important thing here is that the patient maintains a structured routine where they are engaged in some form of treatment.

Detox Programs

Treatment for drug addiction differs by type of drug and symptoms experienced. If the user has been abusing drugs or alcohol for an extended period, this may require a detoxification or withdrawal program designed specifically for the patient’s health. The focus of detoxification is to safely help a person’s body get rid of drugs and alcohol while managing the symptoms. This can be provided through medical or nonmedical methods, but in medical centers, trained physicians and nurses will monitor the patient continuously during the process of detoxification.

Treatment Methods

Support Groups

Support groups are an important part of recovery for many people. Support groups allow those in recovery to help and to receive help from others in similar situations. These groups are offered at local meeting places, such as churches or drug treatment centers. Some of the most common include Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Both follow the 12-step model, which has been shown to produce positive, long-term outcomes for those in recovery.

Counseling for Addiction

Drug rehab programs use a mix of counseling, therapy, and education. Individual and group counseling and therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy and contingency management are standard offerings in most rehab facilities. During therapy and counseling, psychologists, psychiatrists, and addiction specialists help clients understand the reasons behind their drug use patterns and how to move forward.

Educational programs are designed to teach patients about the causes of drug addiction and how to manage their lives better. These programs help patients identify the benefits and responsibilities associated with drug addiction treatment. Much of the education offered through drug rehabilitation programs focuses on relapse prevention.

Choosing a Rehab Center in Washington State

Washington State is home to several successful drug rehabilitation programs for those looking to get sober. However, several considerations should be taken when selecting a program.

Treatment Options Provided

Be sure to find out what treatment options will be offered at the facility you are considering, including therapy and medications. Some programs offer a combination of both, and some facilities offer one or the other. Some programs have a specific focus, such as a women-only drug addiction treatment program, which can also be helpful for those who are looking for a more focused experience.


Another consideration to remember is the distance from the client’s home to the drug treatment facility. If a person lives far away, it can be difficult to attend outpatient programming, for instance. People who live close to the facility often feel more comfortable and find it easier to continue their treatments. However, for those who live in a community with other drug users and/or triggers for addiction, taking part in a program in another area of the state may provide the best outcomes.


When choosing a drug treatment program, be sure that they are accredited by the Department of Health (DOH). The DOH sets standards and requirements that are followed to be accredited. This will ensure consistency of care and will help prevent errors.

Program Length

When deciding on a drug treatment program, consider how long you expect to be in treatment. Usually, programs have a length of between 30 and 60 days, but some take even longer. Be sure you understand the length of time you will be in treatment to prepare you for what may lie ahead and ensure that you make arrangements for family and work obligations. However, it’s important to remember that your health should be a priority, so you need to select a treatment program that offers the best chance for long-term recovery

Reach Out for Help Today

Washington state has a broad network of drug rehabilitation centers and clinics that serve the need of residents. Whether seeking treatment on a voluntary or court-ordered basis, there is a facility to meet your needs. The Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery (DBHR) and Health Care Authority (HCA) help ensure the program’s success.

Drug rehab and treatment centers are available in your state if you or your loved one needs help with abuse or drug addiction. For further assistance in selecting a drug rehabilitation program that is right for you or your loved one, you can reach out to your doctor, a local treatment center, or the Washington Recovery Helpline, which offers 24/7 help for those with substance use disorder and other mental health conditions.

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Reviewed By:

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis completed medical school at The University of Mississippi Medical Center and residency in general psychiatry in 2003. He completed a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 2005. Following this, he served as Chief Medical Officer for 10 years of Brentwood Behavioral Healthcare a private health system including a 105-bed hospital, residential treatment, and intensive outpatient services.

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