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Study: Meth-related deaths in Oregon up 400%

Walden pens op-ed; treatment centers work to reduce meth and opioid use

BEND, Ore. ( KTVZ) -- Amid a sharp rise in Oregon's methamphetamine-related deaths, Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., wrote a piece for a Portland newspaper Thursday, pleading for more to be done by all involved to fight the drug epidemic.

Walden cited a recent study that listed Oregon as second in the nation for methamphetamine use. In the past 11 years, the number of deaths from meth in Oregon has jumped 400 percent.

Rick Treleaven, chief executive officer of Central Oregon's BestCare Treatment Services, said Thursday methamphetamine use is a problem in our region, but it's now being combined with opioids, while meth use is predominantly seen in the rural areas of Central Oregon.

The Oregon-Idaho High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program reported that in 2018, 272 people died from meth-related causes in the state.

"The long-term problem in Oregon is that Oregon has not invested in drug and alcohol treatment, for a very long time -- if ever," Treleaven said. "So, when we look at the acuity of our problem, compared to the level of treatment, we have the worst access for the highest need."

Treleaven said he believes the drug rate is alarming in the state because we lack prevention services. He said because more people are combining meth and opioid use, they've had to adapt how they treat the addiction.

Suboxone is now implemented in medication assisted treatment to help those battling opioid addiction.

"Opioid addicts were engaging in recovery only about 1/10th the rate that the meth addicts and the late stage alcoholics were until we added the Suboxone," Treleaven said. "Then they moved up to the rates that we're seeing in the other addictions."

Walden Pens Op-Ed in The Oregonian: Looking Beyond the Opioid Epidemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River) penned an op-ed in The Oregonian in response to the frightening increase of illicit stimulant use. While progress has been made to end the opioid crisis, the nation has seen a concerning increase in the use of deadly stimulants, with Oregon recently ranking second in the nation for methamphetamine use. 

An excerpt of Rep. Walden’s op-ed is below. The full article may be viewed here.

Looking Beyond the Opioid Epidemic

The Oregonian

By: Rep. Greg Walden

February 5, 2020

It’s hard to know what to say to comfort a father who tells you how he found his bright, hard-working, teenage son dead on the family room floor less than a year ago. The autopsy showed the boy had ingested two types of fentanyl. The coroner said that even the small amount of powder he had used was 10 times more than what was needed to kill him. A deadly dose of fentanyl can be as small as the amount needed to cover Abe Lincoln’s ear on a penny. 

It’s stories like this father’s that causes me to keep fighting this terrible scourge. And that’s why I recently led the House passage of legislation to help stop illegal fentanyl from getting into our communities. 

One thing we all know by now - the opioid epidemic is still a national crisis that destroys lives and shatters families all across our state and our country. It has taken far too many lives and wreaked havoc on far too many communities. 

In 2018, President Trump signed into law the nation’s most historic effort to combat the opioid crisis – the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act ­– which expands access to treatment and recovery services and provides new tools for keeping drugs out of communities. The legislation, which I authored, has already led to several successes. That same year, we started seeing fewer people die from overdoses and more people getting medical care for their substance use disorder. We’ve also seen new funding go to local caregivers and organizations to help provide for people in need both in Oregon and across the nation. 

All of this is good news, but we have much more work to do. Moreover, we have to think beyond opioids and put a renewed focus on the stimulant epidemic. 

Currently, the use of illicit stimulants, like cocaine and meth, is increasing. Tragically, according to a 2017 survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Oregon was ranked second in the nation for methamphetamine use. Even more concerning is the fact that this issue is only growing. 

In 2018, the number of methamphetamine-related deaths in Oregon reached a historic high of 272, according to the Oregon-Idaho High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program’s 2020 drug threat assessment. That number is nearing the combined total of deaths related to opioid use for Oregon. Since 2009, the number of methamphetamine deaths in our state has increased by a whopping 400 percent. 

Recently, I joined a bipartisan group of federal lawmakers in raising concerns over the frightening increased use of stimulants that we are seeing. We sent letters to the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security and the Drug Enforcement Administration noting that while we remain committed to improving treatment, prevention and protecting communities from deadly illicit drugs, we must also ensure our fight is multi-faceted. Appropriate attention and resources must be devoted to combating not just opioids, but also illicit stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine. 

In our letter, we emphasized the need for an agency response on this issue in order to better understand how the relevant agencies are monitoring and fighting the rising threat of illicit stimulant use.Oregon, beyond the Portland metropolitan area, has a relatively low rate of cocaine-involved overdose deaths. However, nationwide, cocaine use ­and overdose deaths are growing. 

Nationwide, cocaine was involved with 14,948 drug overdose deaths in 2018, accounting for one in five of all overdose deaths that year. From 2016 to 2017, we saw a 37 percent increase in the number of Americans who died from an overdose involving psychostimulants, totaling more than 10,000 deaths. 

These numbers are only going to get worse if we do not join forces and develop preventative measures and treatment for all substance use disorders. America answered the call to action when the opioid crisis swept across the nation and now America must do the same to combat the stimulant epidemic.

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Arielle Brumfield

Arielle Brumfield is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Arielle here.


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