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DHS news release

May 29, 2007

Contact: Jim Sellers 503-945-5738
Program contact: Geralyn Brennan 503-947-2319

Armed with new data, Oregon will strengthen statewide prevention strategies

Using the most comprehensive data Oregon has ever assembled on alcohol, tobacco and other drug use, state officials say they will design more targeted means to reduce their use and the disease and death they cause.

The data include startling findings such as Oregon youth smoking marijuana at rates higher than tobacco, Oregon ranking fourth in the nation for alcohol-induced deaths, and the state's drug-mortality rate double that of the nation's for five consecutive years.

"In the past we've undertaken preventive measures based on good rationale but far less supporting data," said Bob Nikkel, Oregon Department of Human Services assistant director for addictions and mental health. "The new data will permit us to target prevention dollars and energy where it's most needed."

He said DHS would involve treatment providers, stakeholders and others in developing a multi-year plan.

The data were compiled from 11 sources during the first phase of a three-year, $200,000 annual grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which says it wants states to make greater use of data to drive decisions. Oregon, one of 13 states participating in the project, also expects to produce county-level data this summer.

Among the findings, details of which can be found on the DHS Addiction Resource Center​ Web site:

  • Oregonians, who consume more alcohol than the national average, rank fourth nationally in alcohol-related deaths. The rate of such deaths rose by more than 50 percent over five years.
  • More than one in 20 Oregon adults can be classified as heavy drinkers, with males ages 21 to 29 most likely to be heavy users.
  • The rate of Oregon eighth-graders reporting having consumed alcohol during the past 30 days is 76 percent higher than the national rate.
  • Oregon eighth- and 11th-graders are more likely to light up a marijuana cigarette than one containing tobacco.
  • For the first time since 1998, the rate of Oregon 18- to 24-year-olds who report smoking tobacco every day exceeds the national rate. Adult deaths from lung cancer, emphysema and chronic lower respiratory disease exceeded the nation's rate for five straight years.
  • Indicating that methamphetamine use is spreading across the state are data showing that although half of Oregon's 2002 meth-related deaths occurred in metropolitan Portland, by 2005 only 25 percent did.
  • Oregon's rate of youthful use of inhalants, which like alcohol often are easily obtainable at home, was 50 percent higher than that of the nation.
  • Although the state's smoking rates have declined during the past decade, the use of smokeless tobacco, whose health hazards are less well known, has remained at about 6 percent.

The new data show not only rates of alcohol-caused deaths, but also that early death cuts an average of 27 years from women's life expectancy and 20 from men's among those people whose deaths are attributable to alcohol.

Positive findings included significantly reduced use of the drug ecstasy in Oregon as well as fewer adolescent males reporting that they drive after drinking, dropping that rate well below the national average.

Nevertheless, Nikkel said the data show a sharp departure from the national decrease in drinking by eighth- and 11th-graders and calls for redoubling efforts to reduce underage drinking. Those efforts have included media advertising, prevention work in schools and a three-community pilot in Newport and Lake and Wallowa counties. He said rates of youthful use of alcohol, inhalants and prescription drugs, all frequently found in the home, also are an indicator parents need to continue to receive prevention messages.

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