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Oregon had second-highest addiction rates in the nation in 2020

Opioids being poured into a container.
Kristian Foden-Vencil
Opioids being poured into a container.

New data from 2020 shows Oregon has the second-highest alcohol and drug addiction rates in the nation and ranks last in treatment options.

The report, created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, found Oregon's rates had grown worse than they were in 2019.

Oregon ranks first in the nation for methamphetamine and prescription opioid misuse. Alcohol is the most misused substance in the state, with a little over 12% of Oregonians suffering from alcohol use disorder.

Oregon has not invested enough in services such as residential treatment centers and detox programs, according to Sommer Wolcott, the executive director of OnTrack Rogue Valley, a Southern Oregon nonprofit that specializes in substance abuse recovery.

“People that are struggling with problematic substance use or a combination of mental health issues and substance use disorders are in need of the higher levels of care which have been underfunded for years,” Wolcott says.

She says that the system in Oregon is fractured and does not properly address the connection between mental health and addiction.

Mike Marshall is the executive director of Oregon Recovers. He says addiction rates have only gotten worse since 2019.

“We don't invest in prevention,” Marshall says. “The Centers for Disease Control comes out annually with suggestions on what each state should invest in prevention and Oregon has traditionally invested half of what they recommend. And we have the highest addiction rates in the county so arguably we should be above what they recommend.”

The waitlist for residential treatment centers can be three to five weeks long, according to Marshall, by which time many people who say they want help may decide not to go.

He says the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated issues of addiction in Oregon by increasing isolation and weakening support systems.

Sophia Prince is a reporter and producer for JPR News. She began as JPR’s 2021 summer intern through the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a BA in journalism and international studies.