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Oregon--known as "The Beaver State" because of the importance of its prolific beaver fur trade during the early 1800s - is today perhaps best known for its craft brewed beer. Portland, Oregon alone has more breweries than any other city in the world within its city limits, (over 60!) But there's something else brewing in Oregon that's a great deal more dangerous- a rising tide of drug addiction.
Once known for its booming timber, fishing, and agriculture industries, Oregon is currently supported mostly by the food and hospitality sector, seconded by construction. Boasting a relatively comfortable average annual household income level of $80,040, one might be tempted to think that Oregon had been spared the wave of drug addiction affecting poorer states, but nothing could be further from the truth. Oregon ranked sixth out of all states in rates of illicit drug use in 2013 and 2014, according to federal statistics. A total of 287 people died from drug-related deaths in Oregon in 2015, (which was an increase from 2014) and heroin overdose deaths and deaths related to methamphetamine use are on the definite rise. Oregon also ranks fourth in nonmedical prescription opiate use and has a higher rate of DUI fatalities than the United States as a whole! So despite its relative wealth, drug abuse remains a major challenge for The Beaver State.
When we look at the relationship between addiction and economics, we quickly realize that it's complicated. Drug and alcohol abuse affects the entire country, and no state in the US has been spared, including Oregon. In 2016 the United States had over 60,000 overdoses, (a rate of 175 people dying per day!) And, although poorer people are statistically more likely to struggle with drug or alcohol addiction, correlation is not causation. This doesn't necessarily mean that people that are more well-off economically are less likely to become addicted. In fact in some cases, wealthy people can be thrown into poverty as a direct result of addiction. Someone who is solidly middle class can fall into poverty if their addiction leads to poor work performance and job loss. And, if someone has been fired from an old job, it can become a great deal harder to get a new one. It's a vicious downward spiral that is difficult to shake once its begun.
Much like the rest of the United States, prescription painkiller (opioid) addiction has blown across Oregon like a wildfire, wreaking havoc on communities and tearing families apart. In Oregon, drug overdose deaths involving opioids totaled 339 (a rate of 8.0) in 2018. It's not a malady that a community is easily able to shake free of, once it has its hold. Opioid addiction is particularly menacing because, due to the highly addictive nature of the drugs, it can sneak up on even the most cautious of people, even when they think they're being vigilant.
Just as in the rest of the country, the root of the opioid problem in Oregon stems from doctors over-prescribing these highly addictive pills when, in many cases, lesser drugs like Tylenol, Excedrin or Advil will do. Opioids may seem safe because a doctor prescribes them, but just one or two of few these prescription pain pills can get people hooked and send them off on a path to full-on dependency. In 2018, Oregon providers wrote 57.3 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people! And, perhaps more alarmingly, a study of Oregon youth (ages 12-17) found that 4% of Oregon youth had used pain relievers in any way not directed by a doctor in the past year. This is of particular concern because we know how extremely addictive these substances are.
Sadly many Oregon residents have discovered that abusing prescription painkillers can lead to using even more dangerous substances. The early 2000's saw an explosion of so-called "pill mill" doctors, and it seemed like opioids were being prescribed for anything and everything. Federal and state regulations now try to control and limit the prescribing of opioids, (a valiant effort) but it has had the unintended result of street drugs like heroin (which gives a similar high and is even cheaper to obtain on the street) growing exponentially in Oregon. And, the long spiral downward doesn't stop there. When certain street drugs like heroin aren't available, drug addicts often then turn to incredibly dangerous synthetics like fentanyl, (which is far stronger than heroin) and the result is usually a body bag. In Oregon, deaths involving synthetic opioids (mainly fentanyl and fentanyl analogs) trended up to 97 (a rate of 2.4) in 2018—more than twice the 43 deaths (a rate of 1.1) that were reported in 2016. And in the United States as a whole, synthetic opioids, (including fentanyl) are now the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths, responsible for 59% of all opioid-related decedents.
There are some that argue that the opioid problem attracts more attention because it is more prevalent among the working population, as opposed to the ever-present methamphetamine crisis, which is considered a street drug and largely affects people who are "down-and-out" and without homes. While it may get less attention, Methamphetamine is actually one of the most dangerous illicit drugs, and in Portland, Oregon specifically, it's the leading cause of drug-related deaths. 78% of Oregonians know someone that is suffering from methamphetamine addiction.
The good news for Oregon residents struggling with drug and alcohol addiction is that help is only a few clicks away. The Beaver State has an abundance of resources to fit every need, whether you just want counseling, a broader more community-based approach, or are seeking full-on detox services. The important part is acknowledging the forces holding you back so you can shrug them off, take the very first step, and begin the journey towards breaking free.
Oregon State Facts
Oregon Population: 3,419,990
Law Enforcement Officers in Oregon: 7,160
Oregon Prison Population: 18,000
Oregon Probation Population: 46,063
Violent Crime Rate National Ranking: 34
2004 Federal Drug Seizures in Oregon
Cocaine: 2.8 kgs.
Heroin: 1.2 kgs.
Methamphetamine: 35.2 kgs.
Marijuana: 123.7 kgs.
Ecstasy: 152 tablets
Methamphetamine Laboratories: 322 (DEA, state, and local)
Oregon Drug Situation: Oregon is a transshipment point for controlled substances smuggled to Washington and Canada, as well as a consumer site. Oregon is a source of marijuana and has a growing number of clandestine methamphetamine laboratories.
Cocaine in Oregon: Cocaine is available; however, it is not the preferred drug with most drug abusers in the state. Heroin and methamphetamine continue to be preferred by most drug abusers. Hispanic traffickers are the most common sources of cocaine in Oregon which is sold to Caucasian distributors. Crack cocaine is available but more so in the areas of Salem and southern Oregon. Hispanic violators are the most common sources of cocaine in Oregon which is sold to Caucasian distributors. Crack cocaine is available but more so in the areas of Salem and southern Oregon.
Heroin in Oregon: Mexican black tar and brown heroin are the primary types of heroin distributed throughout Oregon, controlled by Hispanic poly-drug trafficking organizations. Heroin continues to be shipped from Mexico by a variety of methods, primarily by vehicles with hidden compartments. Heroin typically is transported overland to Portland via the Interstate 5 corridor from source cities in Mexico through traffickers in California. Many of the Hispanic traffickers belong to extended Mexican families from regions such as Nayarit and Michoacan, where traffickers use their familial contacts in Mexico and California to smuggle heroin into the state. These organizations also traffic in cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana (of Mexican origin).
Methamphetamine in Oregon: Methamphetamine is one of the most widely abused controlled substances in Oregon. Two "varieties" are generally encountered: Mexican methamphetamine, which is either manufactured locally or obtained from sources in Mexico, California or other Southwest Border states, and methamphetamine which is produced locally by area violators. Of the two types, Mexican methamphetamine continues to flood the market. Methamphetamine is available in multi-pound amounts throughout western Oregon, and smaller quantities are available in Eastern Oregon. Canadian pseudoephedrine, utilized in the manufacture of methamphetamine, is frequently seized at clandestine laboratory sites. Crystal “ice” methamphetamine is increasing in availability and is the exclusive type of methamphetamine available in central Oregon. In the greater Portland area a rise in syphilis cases accompanied the popularity rise of crystal methamphetamine and health officials fear it may fuel a surge in HIV infections.
Club Drugs in Oregon: MDMA (Ecstasy) is available throughout the state, and multi-kilogram seizures are common. It is accessible in varying quantities in the larger cities and on college campuses, as well as outlying areas. MDMA is often traded for high grade marijuana, either grown locally or BC Bud marijuana from British Columbia, Canada. GHB laboratories have been seized in conjunction with methamphetamine laboratories. Mexican Ketamine is also smuggled into the state. MDMA is often traded for high grade marijuana, either grown locally or BC Bud marijuana from British Columbia, Canada.
Marijuana in Oregon: Marijuana is readily available in Oregon. The majority of marijuana available in Portland is cultivated in home grow operations. Multi-thousand plant outdoor marijuana growing gardens have been discovered on national forest land in southern Oregon which indoor marijuana grows of similar size have been found in buried shipping containers.
Canadian and domestic marijuana in the Portland area is available in multi pound amounts. Mexican marijuana is present, but not prevalent. Mexican grown marijuana is transported using existing heroin and methamphetamine distribution routes and methods. It is typically transported overland via Interstate 5 and U.S. Highway 101 in western Oregon. Traffickers typically use passenger vehicles fitted with hidden compartments or attempt to otherwise conceal the drugs within the vehicle. Canadian marijuana smugglers use passenger vehicles, fishing vessels, private aircraft (fixed wing and helicopters), and "mules" to smuggle the drug into the state. Traffickers take advantage of rural airfields to smuggle large quantities of marijuana.
Other Drugs in Oregon: The most commonly abused pharmaceutical drugs in the state are hydrocodone (Vicodin) and benzodiazepines (Xanax and Klonopin). Hydrocodone for street sales has been smuggled into the state via mail parcels from California. Soma is a Schedule IV controlled drug in Oregon and is often used in combination with narcotic analgesics. The most prevalent methods of diversion are pharmacy theft and fraudulent prescriptions. Hydrocodone for street sales has been smuggled into the state via mail parcels from California.
DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams: This cooperative program with state and local law enforcement counterparts was conceived in 1995 in response to the overwhelming problem of drug-related violent crime in towns and cities across the nation. There have been 409 deployments completed resulting in 16,763 arrests of violent drug criminals as of February 2004. There have been six MET deployments in the State of Oregon since the inception of the program: Woodburn, Madras, Klamath Falls, Washington County, Keizer, and Portland.
DEA Regional Enforcement Teams: This program was designed to augment existing DEA division resources by targeting drug organizations operating in the United States where there is a lack of sufficient local drug law enforcement. This Program was conceived in 1999 in response to the threat posed by drug trafficking organizations that have established networks of cells to conduct drug trafficking operations in smaller, non-traditional trafficking locations in the United States. Nationwide, there have been 22 deployments completed resulting in 608 arrests of drug trafficking criminals as of February 2004. There have been no RET deployments in the State of Oregon.