Spokane Trends Blog

Did you know there are over 200 different community indicators on Spokane Trends - each updated throughout the year? But which ones, and when?

This issue of the Spokane Trends blog lists the most recently updated indicators on the Spokane Trends Focus website. 

The page will be updated and email alerts sent on a quarterly basis. Don't miss an update - subscribe today!

Recent Updates

The complete list of Spokane Trends can be found here.

Blog Feature: Opioid Deaths in Spokane County

Opioid Deaths Spike During First Year of Pandemic!

Among the sobering and measurable consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic is the impact that increased mortalities had on life expectancy. Typically, life expectancy gives us a snapshot of a community’s overall health. Over time, life expectancy at birth has steadily increased due to improvements in public health. However, in just the first year of the pandemic, life expectancy in Spokane County dropped by 1.22 years (nearly 15 months) – wiping out the progress of over two decades and returning to the level it was in 2000. This drop was similar to the state average of one year.

Along with the additional deaths due to Covid-19, another factor contributing to the significant drop in life expectancy during the early part of the pandemic was the increase in what have come to be known as “deaths of despair” — fatalities from drug overdoses, alcohol use, and suicide.

In a look at just drug overdoses and even more specifically, opioid overdoses, Spokane Trends 5.1.7 tracks the annual total opioid-related deaths and the rate per 100,000 residents for both the county and the state. This indicator measures the number of opioid-related deaths, where an opioid was noted on the death certificate. Included in this indicator are all types of opioids, covering opium, heroin, natural and semi-synthetic opioids, methadone, synthetic opioids (other than methadone), and other and unspecified narcotics that were listed on the death certificate as “an underlying cause of death.”

In the first year of the pandemic (2020), opioid-related deaths in the county increased by 63%, above the state average increase of 52%. Overdose deaths due to synthetic opioids (non-methadone), which includes drugs like tramadol and fentanyl, experienced an annual increase of over 200% from 2019 to 2020!

Drug overdoses are often hard to classify because multiple drugs are often used simultaneously. However, consistent with what is being recorded around the state and nation as a whole, it is likely that illegally made fentanyl is a major contributing factor. According to the CDC, the national opioid epidemic has been undergoing a third wave of significant increases in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, particularly those involving illicitly manufactured fentanyl, since 2013. Fentanyl is sold through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effect. It is often mixed with heroin and/or cocaine as a combination product—with or without the user’s knowledge—to increase its euphoric effects.

Since 2016, the rate of opioid-related deaths per 100,000 residents fell to 9. Hopefully, the one-year jump to 14.85 (very similar to the state average of 15.3) in 2020 will only be temporary as the community returns to a new normal, post-pandemic.