By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Oregon a leader in abuse of drugs

Abuse of drugs and alcohol disrupts and frequently destroys people’s lives — locally, across Oregon and throughout the nation. We don’t recognize the full effect of substance abuse because most of those personal life disruptions go unreported.

Whatchamacolumn

Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

Stories of human tragedies often suggest strong clues to long-term personal struggles. For example, this week’s report of a triple-fatality car accident included this comment from Oregon State Police: “Distracted driving and/or controlled substance use related to (the driver) are considered factors in the crash.”

Two passengers who died in that crash had criminal records involving methamphetamines, one dating back many years. The driver of that car — also killed, while his 4-year-old son survived — had amassed various DUI, assault and probation violations in recent years. Perhaps, as one source suggested, they were turning their lives around with treatment programs, but any such opportunity now is lost to them, their families and friends.

Various reports from 2015 identify Oregon as a state with major drug abuse problems. Number 1 on that list, say law enforcement officials, is a methamphetamine trade driven primarily by Mexican drug traffickers. Retail distribution of that imported meth, officials say, is handled primarily by motorcycle clubs and street gangs.

Meth trafficking is connected with violence, property crimes and major criminal activity. Meth-related arrests have doubled in Oregon since 2009.

Heroin use is another major concern and here’s one related piece of irony: One reason Oregon is not listed among the nation’s worst states for prescription drug abuse, as reported by The Oregonian, is that “some prescription opioid users have switched to heroin because it is easier to obtain.”

One report ranked Oregon No. 4 nationally for increase of heroin addicts admitted to rehab. U.S. News & World Report reported that nationally, “The rate of heroin-related overdose deaths increased 286 percent between 2002 and 2013.”

Still, according to the Oregon High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program, also reported in The Oregonian, “The number of overdose deaths from prescription drugs in Oregon was higher in 2014 than the number of deaths attributed to heroin and nearly matched total deaths associated with methamphetamine use.” Oxycodone topped that list, linked with 59 Oregon deaths in 2014.

Law enforcement officials predict that trafficking of dangerous drugs will continue to expand, along with related violence, property crimes and identity theft. It all paints a troubling picture in the context of Oregon’s new experiment in legalized marijuana.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

Comments

Horse with no name

"Two passengers who died in that crash had criminal records involving methamphetamines, one dating back many years. The driver of that car — also killed, while his 4-year-old son survived — had amassed various DUI, assault and probation violations in recent years...It all paints a troubling picture in the context of Oregon’s new experiment in legalized marijuana."

That's a long way around the block to connect marijuana with heroin and meth and a recent triple fatality. How did you connect those dots? The driver was a drunk and meth user we get from your article, so you infer where we're going with marijuana is bad. I and many in law enforcement believe it will free up law enforcement to fight the big problems like drinking and driving and meth.

Jeb Bladine

The driver was not identified as a meth user -- the OSP report referred to "controlled substance" without specifying a drug, and marijuana remains on Oregon's list of controlled substances. The commentary about Oregon's high levels of drug abuse was not intended to draw direct connection between marijuana, heroin and meth, and reference to Oregon's new law simply recognized that marijuana is another drug that is subject to abuse and, we presume, increased risk on our roadways.

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