Oregon has the worst drug addiction rate in the nation, according to federal data.
The latest National Drug Use and Health Survey found that 9% of teens and adults were drug users in 2020. About 12% of Oregonians age 12 and older reported having a drinking problem . This compares to almost 7% in 2019.
Together, they gave Oregon the second-worst overall addiction rate nationally, with nearly one in five teens and adults reporting a drug or alcohol problem.
Montana came in first, but just by a fraction.
The previous year, Oregon ranked fifth, with 9% of people age 12 and older reporting a problem with addiction.
The survey, released annually by the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, looked at alcohol, prescription opioids and street drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin.
Oregon ranked last statewide in 2020 for access to drug treatment, with 18% of teens and adults unable to seek treatment, compared to nearly 9% in 2019.
The report, based on in-person and online surveys, came as no surprise to experts. Overdose deaths in Oregon are rising and the number of claimants has fallen.
According to a report by the Oregon Health Authority, nearly 700 people in Oregon died of drug overdoses in 2020, a 30% increase from 2019. Residential treatment programs accepted fewer people to comply with social distancing rules, while spending more on masks and other protections. equipment. They also faced staffing shortages.
“The pandemic has really hurt a number of programs,” said Reginald Richardson Sr., executive director of the Oregon Drug and Alcohol Policy Commission. “We only one teen program remains in the state.
Oregon’s residential drug treatment facilities lost about 150 adult and child beds last year, according to a presentation last week to a state House legislative committee by Chief Financial Officer David Baden. from the Oregon Health Authority. The health authority did not specify the number of beds remaining.
In 2020, people isolated at home often turned to drugs and alcohol, Richardson said, while the Oregon Health Authority, which is responsible for addictions, focused on the pandemic.
“They have dedicated most of their resources to this,” Richardson said.
But even before the pandemic, Oregon failed to tackle the state’s addiction problem, experts say.
“Our state spends less than 1% of our total budget on prevention,” Richardson said. “We need to do more for prevention so people don’t take drugs in the first place.”
In 2018, Governor Kate Brown issued an executive order declaring addiction a public health crisis. She appointed Richardson to the commission, and two years ago he drew up a plan outlining steps to deal with the growing number of Oregonians with addictions. The commission has proposed increasing rapid access to treatment so that people can get immediate help when they realize they have a problem. Getting into a treatment center can take weeks and during this time people may lose their desire for treatment.
“When a person is ready for treatment, they need to have access to it immediately,” Richardson said.
The plan also included devoting more resources to recovery, such as funding for peer support efforts.
Addiction specialists have welcomed the plan, but say little has moved forward.
“Governor Brown continues to ignore our addiction crisis and has taken no action to implement the plan,” said Mike Marshall, executive director of Oregon Recovers, an advocacy group calling for more resources to treatment and prevention.
Role of measurement 110
A spokesperson for Brown’s office disputed that point in a statement to the Capital Chronicle. Charles Boyle, associate communications manager, said Brown considers substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery services “among his top priorities.”
Drug and alcohol addiction and overdose “remain persistent, costly and devastating problems for Oregonians, with far-reaching impacts on our children and families,” the statement said.
The statement said Brown is working with the state Department of Justice to get more money for behavioral health through lawsuits against opioid manufacturers. The statement said Measure 110, which was approved by voters in 2020 and decriminalizes drug possession, funneled $31 million into treatment programs.
A health authority report said the money had helped more than 16,000 people. But less than 1% was used to bring patients into treatment, according to a pie chart showing the breakdown of spending for almost 11,000 people. Nearly 60% was used for harm reduction services, which include services such as needle exchange services to prevent the spread of disease and the distribution of naloxone kits to reverse opioid overdoses. About 15% went to housing assistance.
The Board of Oversight and Accountability, which oversees the implementation of Measure 110, has earmarked an additional $280 million to establish behavioral health centers in each county, but those centers are under development.
“We decriminalized substances without making sure we had a robust treatment system,” Richardson said.
Measure 110 will not solve Oregon’s addiction problem, Marshall said.
“Many Oregonians and lawmakers believe that funding Measure 110 will help solve the addiction crisis by expanding access to treatment,” Marshall said. “But Measure 110 funding cannot be used for prevention, nor will it fund new treatment beds.”
What Oregon needs is to focus on prevention, Richardson said. Every dollar spent on prevention saves $7 on addictions, he said.
“We will never process our way out of this situation,” Richardson said.
In recent years, the health authority has focused on stemming the abuse of prescription opioids. The health authority has a monitoring program in place that tracks opioid prescriptions by provider, and since 2015 prescriptions per capita have plummeted.
But the problem has not gone away. In 2019, Oregon had the highest per capita rate of prescription opioid abuse in the nation — and it still does, according to the federal survey.
Oregon also has a worsening meth problem. In 2019, about 1% of teens and adults used methamphetamine, the sixth highest rate in the country. That jumped to almost 2% in 2020, the worst ranking nationally.
Heroin use has declined, however: Oregon now ranks 11th nationally from sixth in 2019 – as has cocaine use, with the state dropping from third to seventh place.
But the rate of alcohol dependence nearly doubled in 2020, with states seeing a similar increase in problematic drinking.
Richardson said the passage of some recent laws in Oregon hasn’t helped. For example, last year the legislature approved the sale of take-out cocktails and authorized wider sale of kegs and packaged beer, wine and cider.
“While addiction resources have been provided, they don’t go far enough and they haven’t been effective,” Richardson said. “People now have easier access to alcohol.”