YAKIMA, Wash. — Last year in Yakima County, opioids were present in the bodies of 18 people who died from drug overdoses, according to the Yakima County Coroner.

That works out to be 7.7 deaths per 100,000 residents, nearly twice the rate of 3.9 between 2000 and 2002 cited in a new University of Washington report.

Twelve of last year’s Yakima County deaths involved prescription opiates, such as methadone and tramadol. Six had taken an unspecified opiate, which could include heroin.

Yakima County’s heroin use seems to be more steady compared to the rest of the state, said Caleb Banta-Green, who authored the report on heroin use released Tuesday by the UW Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute.

“Yakima’s had a heroin problem for a long time,” he said.

Meanwhile, prescription abuse in the county has increased dramatically over the past decade, he said.

The deaths from opioids probably could have been prevented, Banta-Green said. But most drug users don’t know that and don’t seek help, if they even realize an overdose is occurring, he said.

Under state law, people can’t be prosecuted for drug possession if they call 911 to report an overdose.

The UW Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute set up the website stopoverdose.org to distribute information about preventing drug-related deaths.

• Dan Catchpole can be reached at 509-759-7850 or dcatchpole@yakimaherald.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/dcatchpole.