Oregon meth deaths at highest point since 2000

From Salem Statesman Journal, April 24, 2014

The Oregon State Medical Examiner has released 2013 statistics for drug-related deaths, finding that methamphetamine deaths are on the rise statewide.

Overdose report by county, 2013

Overdose report by county, 2013

But other drugs, like heroin and cocaine, have declined.

More than 200 people died in Oregon in 2013 due to drugs, nearly the same number of deaths reported in 2012.

The majority of all drug-related deaths, 55 percent, were related to the use of methamphetamine. The number of people dying from this drug has increased 32 percent since 2012 and is the highest recorded number of deaths since 2000.

Heroin-related deaths, however, decreased 25 percent since 2012, when the number of heroin-related deaths was reportedly the highest it had been since 2000.

Cocaine-related deaths were down another 35 percent and have been the lowest number reported since the beginning of 2000.

According to the medical examiner, the majority of methamphetamine-related deaths were actually not overdoses, but due to some other event like a car crash or a drowning.

Forty-five percent of the drug-related deaths occurring statewide happened in Multnomah County.

In the press release from the medical examiner, Marion County was highlighted as one county that saw notable decreases in the number of drug-related deaths. Deaths decreased from 19 in 2012 to only six in 2013.

Oregon State Medical Examiner Dr. Karen Gunson released 2013 drug-related death statistics reflecting one fewer death from last year and a near 7 percent drop from 2012 when deaths reached their highest level since 2000.

Preliminary drug-related death statistics showed the lowest number of Cocaine-related deaths and highest number of Methamphetamine-related deaths since 2000.

Drug-related death statistics indicate 222 deaths in 2013, down less than one percent from 223 deaths reported in 2012. These deaths are associated with the use of Heroin, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, or a combination use of those drugs. Three years ago in 2011, Oregon reported the highest number of drug-related deaths when 240 people needlessly died from the abuse of illicit drugs.

A review of last year’s 222 reported deaths and their frequency of use reflected:

* 123 Methamphetamine-related deaths, a 32 percent increase over the previous year’s reported 93 deaths and the highest recorded since the beginning of 2000. More than 55 percent of all drug-related deaths were associated with methamphetamine use. Multnomah County noted a 62 percent increase in this category with 45 recorded deaths, up from 28 deaths last year.

* Heroin-related deaths (111) were a 25 percent decrease from the previous year’s reported 147 deaths, which was the highest number since the beginning of 2000. More than half (65) of heroin-related deaths happened in Multnomah County, and Clackamas County recorded 13 deaths which is an increase from last year’s eight recorded deaths in this category.

* Cocaine-related deaths (12) were the fewest recorded since the beginning of 2000 and a 35 percent decrease from the previous year’s 19 reported deaths. The highest number was reported in 2000 when 69 people died from illicit use in this category. Cocaine-related deaths occurred only in Multnomah (9), Lincoln, Malheur, and Yamhill counties.

* Combination of drug use deaths (26) dropped 20 percent and was the second fewest since the beginning of 2000.

Dr. Gunson noted the majority of methamphetamine-related deaths are not overdoses but actually related to some other event such as traffic crashed, drowning or other traumatic event. Methamphetamine use is also linked to seizures and sudden elevation in blood pressure which can cause strokes and heart attacks.

Forty-five percent of drug-related deaths in 2013 happened in Multnomah County, a drop of one death compared to last year’s 103 deaths.

Counties with notable increases include:

* Clackamas County: 13 (2012) to 17 (2013) – thirteen were heroin-related
* Columbia County: 1 (2012) to 4 (2013) – three were methamphetamine-related
* Coos County: 4 (2012) to 8 (2013) – six were methamphetamine-related
* Josephine County: 1 (2012) to 4 (2013) – three were methamphetamine-related
* Lane County: 15 (2012) to 20 (2013) – thirteen were methamphetamine-related
* Linn County: 1 (2012) to 6 (2013) – five were methamphetamine-related
* Polk & Umatilla County: 0 (2012) to 3 (2013) – five of their 6 combined deaths were methamphetamine-related

Counties with notable decreases include:

* Clatsop County: 4 (2012) to 1 (2013)
* Jackson County: 19 (2012) to 11 (2013) – seven were heroin-related
* Marion County: 19 (2012) to 6 (2013) – five were methamphetamine-related
* Washington County: 17 (2012) to 12 (2013) – nine were methamphetamine-related

Oxycodone use surpassed methadone in topping the list of major drug prescription deaths. In 2013, the 150 opioid-related deaths in three noted categories dropped from 170 in 2012 and 193 in 2011. Decreases in methadone-related deaths accounted for the yearly decreases. The noted prescription drug categories are:

* Methadone-related deaths dropped from 78 (2012) to 58 (2013)
* Oxycodone-related deaths dropped from 66 (2012) to 60 (2013)
* Hydrocodone-related deaths rose from 26 (2012) to 32 (2013)

Note that prescription drug overdose death statistics are statewide and not included with the information provided on the State Medical Examiner’s website charts.