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Meth: The Biggest Killer in Oregon’s Battle with Illicit Drugs

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Willamette Weekcalls meth Oregon’s drug of choice; the low-cost and high availability make it attractive, especially to the state’s homeless population.U.S. News & World Reportsays deaths from meth addiction in Oregon are on the rise.

This article will take a look at Oregon’s increasing number of meth-related deaths over the past few years. Where are the drugs originating? Why is meth such a problem in Oregon? What can Oregon residents go for help with meth addiction treatment?

Meth Addiction in Oregon – The Sad Reality

“The methamphetamine problem sweeping across the country has far-reaching effects on the communities it touches. There are the obvious effects on those using and manufacturing the drug, including illness, injury, and death. Property owners face financial loss due to property damage from fires, explosions, decontamination costs, and loss of rent. Meth manufacture degrades environmental quality. Byproducts may find their way into the soil, water, and air. There are increased costs for medical services and emergency room use for meth users and producers.” Oregon Health Authority

The state has reached a crisis point in opioid addiction. The headlines are full of reports showing that prescription medications such as codeine or fentanyl are being widely misused. But there is a far more insidious drug that has quietly taken over Oregon, and the effects are far from television’s Breaking Bad.

Meth addiction in Oregon is also at a crisis point. U.S. News & World Report tells us that overdose and death tied to these substances has reached the highest volume that they have ever been in the state. In 2016, meth matched the number of deaths from prescription opioids and surpassed deaths from heroin. Look at the numbers as reported:

  • In 2005, Oregon police logged 192 incidents involving meth labs.
  • In 2005, pseudoephedrine medications were required to be placed behind the pharmacy counter, restricting access to the active ingredient to make meth.
  • In 2006, there was a sharp decline in recorded meth lab incidents to 63.
  • By 2008, there were 2,005 busts for meth in the state.
  • In 2013, the number increased to just less than 3,000.
  • In 2014, there were 3,615 convictions for meth possession in Oregon.

Willamette Week quotes a June report from the Oregon branch of the Office of National Drug Control Policy that calls meth the “greatest threat” to the state and its inhabitants.

What Is Meth Addiction?


The New York Timesconfirms that meth addiction in Oregon is spiking again. Mexican drug cartels have stepped up their game, pushing a ready supply of meth out in Oregon and across the nation. They report, “The cartels have inundated the market with so much pure, low-cost meth that dealers have more of it than they know what to do with.” The article suggests that meth is now nearly “100 percent pure and about $5 a hit,” making it even harder to resist for people struggling with substance use disorder.

Why is meth so addictive?

Meth, or methamphetamine, is a synthetic or human-made stimulant most often created in home labs with common chemicals like acetone (paint thinner), petroleum ether (camp stove fuel), sulfuric acid (paint stripper), sodium hydroxide (drain cleaner), and anhydrous ammonia (fertilizer). These are household stripping and cleaning agents, but a meth “cook” combines these highly toxic and flammable chemicals with the pseudoephedrine from common cold medications to create meth. The Meth Project points out that not only are these chemicals highly flammable and toxic to humans, each pound of meth yields more than six pounds of waste. When these chemicals are dumped illegally and haphazardly, they create problems in communities. Exposure to even the waste products from meth production cause poisoning, burns, headaches, and even cancer.

The toxicity of meth mirrors its addictive qualities; meth is three times more powerful than cocaine and it triggers dependency and full-on addiction much faster than most illegal substances. Meth forces the brain to release the feel-good chemical dopamine, which is what gives the person the desired rush. The effects on the brain’s limbic system are widely documented, resulting in both a mental and physical addiction to the drug.

Over time, use of the drug actually rewires the decision-making properties of the brain so that the person using the drug disregards any of the negative effects of meth use and single-mindedly pursues the high that meth creates. The desire for meth becomes like breathing, an overwhelming physical necessity that is involuntary and all-consuming.

Given that most of these chemicals are mixed in clandestine drug labs found all over the state, the dangers of meth production are extremely high not only to the person using it but also the communities where these drugs are created. The Oregon Health Authority points out these labs are cropping up everywhere, “including motel rooms, apartments, rental properties, storage units, RVs, sheds, garages, vacant buildings and campgrounds.”

Meth is as highly addictive as it is toxic, giving a central nervous system jolt that Willamette Week describes as like “getting a double espresso spiked with Xanax.”

Except this espresso can kill you. The New York Times documents three times as many people die from meth addiction in Oregon as they did a decade ago. They also suggest that meth use is more strongly correlated with crime, stating: “More than one in five burglars and nearly 40 percent of car thieves were also charged with meth crimes, according to the Portland Police Bureau.” They point out that, while opioids are depressants that put people in a doze, meth is a stimulant that drives them to activities that are sometimes dangerous and criminal. Meth lowers inhibitions. 

Fighting Back Against Meth Addiction in Oregon

The best methods of fighting back against these stark Oregon drug trends are to improve access to addiction treatment resources for Oregon residents. While the state has stepped up its game to fight the opioid crisis, more needs to be done to combat the new round of meth addiction all over the state. Meth addiction is a painful and difficult affliction, but there are resources available to help Oregon residents in their fight to overcome this disease. To learn more about admissionscontact us today.