Oregon's Drug War: Rising Deaths, Record Seizures

State medical examiner sees 'alarming' jump in drug deaths

On the same day Oregon's state medical examiner reported an "alarming" rise in drug-related deaths last year, the Oregon State Police said Thursday it made record seizures of illegal drugs in 2011.

Here's the full announcements from both agencies, beginning with the State Medical Examiner's Office:

Oregon State Medical Examiner Dr. Karen Gunson released 2011 drug-related death statistics reflecting an alarming increase from last year and the highest number of total deaths since the beginning of 2000. The newly released statistics show an increase in all four categories tracked by the State Medical Examiner's office.

"The sharp rise in illicit drug deaths in just one year is alarming. Of great concern is the rise in heroin deaths, probably indicating an increase in the availability of the drug," said Gunson.

Drug-related death statistics released for 2011 shows a 20 percent increase -- 240 total drug-related deaths, up from 200 deaths in 2010 -- in Oregon from the use of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, or a combination use of those drugs. Statewide prescription drug overdose deaths were close to the number of deaths during the previous year.

In Central Oregon, Deschutes County reported six drug-related deaths last year, four involving methamphetamine and three involving heroin (and those numbers include one in combination). Crook County registered one death, from a combination of heroin and meth, while Jefferson County recorded one meth-related death, the state ME reported.

A review of the 240 illicit drug-related deaths and their frequency of use in those deaths in 2011 reflected:

* Heroin was the leading cause of death with 143 deaths; a 59 percent increase and the highest number of recorded deaths for this category since the start of 2000. The second highest number of heroin-related deaths (131) occurred in 2000.

* Cocaine-related deaths saw the highest percentage increase (63%) for the year but were the third lowest total number since 2000. Thirty-three (33) deaths in 2011 were cocaine-related, up from 20 deaths in 2010. The highest number of cocaine-related deaths (69) occurred in 2000.

* Methamphetamine-related deaths increased by one death compared to 2010, but were still the highest number for this category since the start of 2000. The 107 deaths last year nearly doubled the 56 deaths recorded in 2000.

* Combination of drug use deaths jumped 115 percent in 2011 with 39 deaths. The previous years' 18 deaths were the lowest for this category since the start of 2000.

Total drug-related deaths in Multnomah County increased 37 percent from 87 in 2010 to 119 in 2011. All four categories noted increases, led by heroin-related deaths jumping 63 percent and combination drug use nearly tripled. Other counties with notable increases in total drug-related deaths included:

* Clackamas County increased 50% from 10 (2010) to 15 (2011)

* Lane County increased 43% from 16 (2010) to 23 (2011) --- Of note, heroin-related deaths jumped from 2 to 15

* Jackson County increased 200 % from 3 (2010) to 9 (2011) --- Of note, methamphetamine-related deaths jumped from 2 to 8

Some counties noting a drop in total drug-related deaths:

* Marion County decreased from 12 (2010) to 10 (2011)

* Klamath County showed no illicit drug-related deaths, down from 6 recorded for 2010

Statewide prescription drug overdose deaths from Methadone use again topped the list of major prescription drugs with 100 confirmed deaths in 2011; a drop from 101 deaths in 2010 and a 23 percent drop from 2008 when 131 deaths were recorded.

Fifty-six (56) deaths from Oxycodone overdose were recorded in 2011, down from 59 deaths in 2010 and up from 39 deaths in 2008.

The third highest major prescription drug category, Hydrocodone, noted 37 overdose deaths in 2011, up from 30 deaths in 2010 (no 2008 comparable numbers available for this release).

"The unacceptable level of the number of prescription drug deaths remained steady. We must continue to educate patients on the safe use of these medications and continue to warn those who abuse these drugs of how dangerous and fatal misuse may be," said Gunson.

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

Information for all counties with at least one drug-related death and a comparison of drug-related death categories during the last 11 years is available through the State Medical Examiner's 2010 statistical review at http://www.oregon.gov/OSP/SME/index.shtml.

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The Oregon State Police release:

A review of statistics and cases developed by Oregon State Police Patrol (OSP) Services Division troopers and Drug Enforcement Section detectives during 2011 reflected the highest seizure levels ever tracked by OSP.

The OSP Drug Enforcement Section recorded 300 drug-related seizures that met HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas) reporting thresholds; nearly 30 percent higher than in 2010 and more than a 150 percent increase reported in 2008.

Captain Calvin Curths, director of the OSP Criminal Investigation Division, was encouraged by the unprecedented statistics but recognized the real fact that significant supplies are still getting to our local communities.

"Although these seizures have kept traffickers from delivering substantial quantities of dangerous illegal drugs to their destination, significant supplies remain available and have a real affect on our communities and individual users. Unfortunately, these illicit drugs are of unknown origin and their purity is often unpredictable and extremely dangerous to those who use them," said Curths.

Dr. Karen Gunson, State Medical Examiner, recently released 2011 drug-related death statistics that reflected an alarming increase from the previous year and the highest number of total deaths since the beginning of 2000. Heroin was the leading cause with 143 drug-related deaths in Oregon, followed by methamphetamine (107 deaths) and cocaine (33 deaths). Information for all counties with at least one drug-related death and a comparison of drug-related categories during the last 11 years is available on our website at http://www.oregon.gov/OSP/SME/index.shtml.

The following is an overview of the OSP Drug Enforcement Section 2011 statistics in comparison to 2010 statistics:

* 24 lbs of heroin seized (increase over 240%)

* 242 lbs of methamphetamine seized (increase of 265%)

* 164 lbs of cocaine seized (increase more than 500%)

OSP troopers and Drug Enforcement Section detectives reported 382 arrests to HIDTA for drug-related crimes in 2011, a 15 percent increase over 2010 reported numbers. Marijuana-related seizures and investigations comprised a large number of OSP cases. The follow increases were reported by OSP Drug Enforcement Section for 2011:

* 222 Marijuana cases (increase of nearly 39% compared to 2010 statistics)

* Over 2,600 lbs of marijuana seized (a 95% increase with an estimated value of $6.5 million)

* Over 24,000 marijuana plants seized (increase of over 1,200%)

Eight OSP drug detection canines are playing a crucial role helping OSP troopers, drug detectives and law enforcement partners find illegal drugs during traffic stops and other drug-related investigations. During 2011, OSP drug detection canines were involved in the seizure of:

* Over 8 lbs of heroin

* 84 lbs of methamphetamine

* 138 lbs of cocaine

* 632 lbs of marijuana

The success in drug seizures noted last year is continuing during the first couple months this year. Examples of the ongoing work by OSP troopers and detectives during the first two months included:

* On January 9, 2012 at approximately 2:30 a.m. an OSP senior trooper stopped a passenger car northbound on Interstate 5 near Wilsonville and subsequently seized 7-one pound bags of methamphetamine. Two California men were arrested.

* On January 30, 2012 at approximately 1:00 a.m. an OSP trooper stopped a pickup northbound on Interstate 5 near Roseburg and subsequently seized over 5 pounds of marijuana. The pickup's driver was wanted on a felony warrant out of California and two warrants out of Yamhill County, Oregon.

* On February 7, 2012 at approximately 12:27 a.m. OSP troopers stopped a sport utility vehicle northbound on Interstate 5 in the Salem area and subsequently seized 1 1/2 pounds of hidden black tar heroin. Follow up investigation by troopers and Drug Enforcement Section detectives led to obtaining a search warrant and the discovery of an additional 4 1/2 pounds of heroin in a second concealed location inside the vehicle.

* On February 9, 2012 at approximately 8:40 a.m. an OSP senior trooper stopped a passenger car northbound on Interstate 5 south of Ashland. With the help of an OSP drug detection canine, the trooper seized 7 pounds of heroin concealed in the vehicle. Two men are facing charges.

* On February 21, 2012 at approximately 8:44 a.m. an OSP trooper stopped a sport utility vehicle northbound on Interstate 5 near Cottage Grove. With the help of an OSP drug detection canine, the trooper located and seized over 15 pounds of marijuana and six ounces of hashish. The ongoing investigation by OSP Drug Enforcement Section detectives in partnership with Humboldt County, California Drug Task Force led to additional seizures of marijuana and marijuana grow site. Three men were arrested in connection with the traffic stop.

* On February 24, 2012 at approximately 11:35 a.m. an OSP trooper stopped a pickup northbound on Highway 97 near Gilchrist and subsequently seized 24 pounds of marijuana. An ongoing investigation by troopers and detectives led to search warrants being served at the suspect's rental home near Sunriver where an indoor marijuana grow operation was found along with an additional 100 pounds of marijuana. One person was arrested.PrintEmail

- Original article from KTVZ News.

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