SEATTLE -- Demand at Western Washington needle exchange programs has skyrocketed, leading to lower rates of HIV and AIDS, but according to some drug counselors, it's helping narcotic use rise as well.
King County reported needle distribution has doubled in the last four years, from 3.3 million to 6 million in 2013. Snohomish County also saw numbers jump from 500,000 needles in 2012 to 900,000 last year.
At the same time, according to King County, heroin-involved deaths, particularly among those over 30-years-old, is going up as well. In 2012, 84 people died in King County from heroin use.
Needle exchange programs were established to reduce needle sharing by drug users, and in doing so, stop the spread of infectious diseases. Washington now has one of the lowest HIV rates in the United States.
However, some in the drug treatment community are concerned the ability for users to get free needles and other drug tools is not helping slow another trend, the rising use of heroin.