Oregon may be best known for the “Oregon Trail’. Among certain generations of 30-somethings, it may also be best known for the “Oregon Trail” video game that was a staple of early Mac computers. Despite what anyone thinks about it for, Oregon is one of the most beautiful and underrated states in the entire country. From the lush forests and snow-capped mountains in the west to the prairies and high desert in the east.

Residents also pride themselves on their excellent coffee and micro-brewed beers, but it’s not these classifications of drugs that we’re focusing on today. This is because Oregon has a more serious drug problem that it’s dealing with. And just like the rest of the country, Oregon needs to move faster if it wants to fully handle this growing epidemic. 

Oregon Drug Use Statistics

The following are the primary drug threats to Oregon:

  • 12.63 percent of Oregon residents admit to using illegal drugs in the past month, while the national average is lower at only 8.82 percent of Americans in general. This means the state has a significantly higher number of residents doing drugs than the average across America.
  • Many observers point to a culture of leniency against marijuana in Oregon being largely responsible for this high drug use rate.
  • The number of Oregon residents that die as a direct result of their drug use is also higher than the national average. In Oregon, 15.1 out of every 100,000 people die as a direct result of using drugs, whereas the national average 12.8 people per 100,000.

The Drug Problem in Oregon

Oregon has a population of nearly 4 million people and according to SAMHSA Oregonians like to use drugs slightly more than residents of other states.  The state falls in the top third of states for drug consumption relative to population. Marijuana is the most widely used drug, which is consistent compared to other states, with between 12 to 16 percent of adults in Oregon over the age of 12 saying that they had used the drug in the month prior to the survey.

A more concerning statistic shows that nearly 5.5% of adults had used illicit drugs other than marijuana in the past month, putting Oregon in the highest range on the scale.  Only 7 other states fall in this range, which is an indication that people use drugs of abuse at a higher rate in Oregon than in most other states.

By individual drug, cocaine use in the state is low, while heroin, methamphetamine, and prescription pain killer use is high.  Oregon was the first state to require prescriptions for cold medications that contain pseudoephedrine which are used to make methamphetamine, which has accounted for a decline of meth labs in the state.  However, the drug is still readily available in the state due to importation from other states and Mexico. 

Heroin is the deadliest drug in the state and kills an average of one person every three days.  Many young people switch to using heroin as a cheaper alternative to prescription pain killers, and police in Oregon say they run into addicts in schools as young as 13.  In Portland, the state’s largest city, there is only one medical detox clinic that accepts clients without insurance, which only takes patients over the age of 18.  With the age of heroin abusers getting younger all the time in the state, this may be an area where addiction continues to rise.

Most Common Drugs of Abuse in Oregon

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration tracks the rates at which residents of a state are admitted for treatment for the use of various drugs. The Administration found interesting changes in use rates and substance abuse treatment for several drugs over the past two decades.

  • Heroin has been climbing back into regular use in Oregon for the last ten years. After declining for most of a decade, heroin is now again responsible for about 22 percent of all drug treatment admissions in the state.
  • Marijuana is still the most popular drug of choice for Oregon residents. While it was passed by meth for several years, marijuana is now the most abused drug in Oregon again, and it is responsible for bout 35 percent of all drug treatment admissions.
  • Cocaine and crack are declining in usage and in treatment admissions. At just under 5 percent, they now account for less drug treatment admissions that at any recorded point in the state’s history.  These drugs to appear to almost be going extinct in Oregon, just like in many other states.
  • Meth has been declining in use for about six years, but it is still the second most popular drug in the state.
Resources & Sources for Oregon Drug Treatment

WhiteHouse.gov: Oregon Drug Control Update – http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/state_profile_-_oregon_0.pdf

Office of Applied Studies: Illicit Drug Use – http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k7state/Ch2.htm#2.1

KOIN.com: Heroin Deadliest Drug in Oregon – http://www.koin.com/news/investigative/heroin-deadliest-drug-in-oregon