By Associated Press • 

Oregon reports increase in deaths related to meth use

SALEM — Deaths connected to the use of methamphetamine have reached higher rates than previously recorded in Oregon, surpassing the death rates from heroin and nearly matching the rates from opioids, according to state figures.

The state recorded 141 meth-related deaths in 2016, rising from the 51 overdose deaths from meth recorded in 2012, according to numbers from the Oregon Health Authority.

During the same time frame, heroin-related deaths decreased from 124 to 107. Pharmaceutical and synthetic opioid overdoses dropped from 174 to 149, the Statesman Journal reported .

Numbers from the Oregon State Medical Examiner show 232 meth-related deaths in 2016 and 93 in 2012. It also recorded 124 heroin-related deaths in 2016 and 147 in 2012.

The discrepancy between the figures from the state agencies can be attributed to the interpretation of what constitutes a meth-related death. The health authority collected its data from death certificates.

As meth-related deaths have increased, so too has the number of convictions for meth possession. The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission recorded a steady rise in convictions from 2008 to 2016, according to its sentencing data.

The state had more than 2000 meth possession convictions in 2008, according to the commission. By 2015, that number soared to 3,665 convictions. The next year saw a slight decrease, dropping to 3,612 convictions.

Law enforcement agencies are looking to curb drug use by emphasizing treatment options like through drug courts.

Salem Police Lt. Dave Okada said agencies are working together to address the issue, but it's going to take considerable combined effort to make a dent in the problem.

“We can't arrest our way out of this,” Okada said. “It's a societal issue, and what we really need to do is continue with education and prevention efforts.”

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Information from: Statesman Journal, http://www.statesmanjournal.com

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