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Methamphetamine Deaths Rise In Oregon In 2013

Illegal drugs contributed to the deaths of 222 people in Oregon last year, according to new numbers from the Oregon State Medical Examiner.

That figure is roughly on par with drug deaths in 2012, but methamphetamine related deaths rose.

Methamphetamine was a factor in 123 deaths last year, the highest number since 2011. Heroin was a factor in 111 deaths.

State Medical examiner Dr. Karen Gunson says while meth is prevalent all over the state, most heroin deaths were in Portland, Medford and Eugene.

“Heroin deaths are always more concentrated in the areas of highest population. Meth is more widely distributed by a long shot,” she said.

Gunson says methamphetamine users rarely die from overdoses, but the drug increases their blood pressure and encourages risk taking. It is a factor in many deaths involving car crashes, accidents, drowning, heart attack, and stroke.

Gunson says her office investigates all deaths that result from violence, accident, drug use, and natural cases if a person dies alone without a doctor’s care.

She says deaths are only counted as meth-related if a substantial amount of the drug is found, but that trace amounts turn up in many more cases.

“We see lots and lots of methamphetamine, sort of as a background in our toxicology,” she said.

Prescription painkillers like Oxycodone contributed to 150 deaths; more than either methamphetamine or heroin.

Copyright 2014 Oregon Public Broadcasting