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Oregon State Medical Examiner Releases 2010 Drug-Related Death Statistics
05/13/2011
Karen Gunson, M.D.
Oregon State Medical Examiner
(971) 673-8200

Oregon State Medical Examiner Dr. Karen Gunson released 2010 drug-related death statistics reflecting a 6 percent drop from last year and the lowest number since 2005.  The newly released statistics show a drop in three of the four categories tracked by the State Medical Examiner’s office.  The lone increase – 22 percent - was for methamphetamine-related deaths matching the highest number of these deaths to date in this category.
 
“Any encouragement seen with the drop in drug-related death statistics was definitely brought back to reality with the 22 percent jump in methamphetamine deaths.  This unexpected jump comes on the heels of last year’s twenty percent drop while the State of Oregon has been a national leader in taking steps to prevent meth production,” said Gunson.
 
Drug-related death statistics released for 2010 shows 200 people died in Oregon from the use of Heroin, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, or a combination use of those drugs.  A review of last year’s 200 illicit drug-related deaths and their frequency of use in the deaths reflected:
 
  • In 2010 there were 106 Methamphetamine-related deaths.  This was a 22 percent increase, matching 2008 for the highest number of deaths in this category and more than doubled the 50 deaths in 2001.
  • Heroin use was the second leading cause with 90 deaths; the third lowest number in this category since the year 2000.  This was a 29 percent drop from 2009 when there were 127 deaths recorded.
  • Cocaine-related deaths dropped to their lowest level, more than 3 times lower than in the year 2000 when there were 69 recorded deaths.  In 2010 there were 20 recorded deaths in this category, a 38 percent drop from last year.
  • Combination of drug use deaths were also at their lowest level after dropping 48 percent from the previous year’s number.  Eighteen (18) deaths were recorded in this category in 2010.
 
Lane County showed the largest decrease in total drug deaths dropping in half from 33 (2009) to 16 (2010).  Deaths related to methamphetamine use encompass the majority of drug deaths in this county.  Other counties with notable drops:
 
  • Clackamas County decreased 33% from 15 (2009) to 10 (2010)
  • Josephine County decreased from 4 (2009) to 2 (2010) with all drug-related deaths in this county during both years was methamphetamine-related
  • Multnomah County deceased from 94 (2009) to 87 (2010) of which nearly 60% were heroin-related deaths
  • Polk County decreased from 3 (2009) to 1 (2010)
Some counties reflecting increases:
 
  • Douglas County increased from 4 (2009) to 7 (2010)
  • Linn County increased from 4 (2009) to 7 (2010)
  • Yamhill County increased from 2 (2009) to 5 (2010)
 
Statewide prescription drug overdose deaths from Methadone use again topped the list of major prescription drugs with 101 confirmed deaths in 2010; a 23 percent drop from two years ago when 131 deaths were reported in 2008. Fifty-nine (59) deaths from Oxycodone overdose were recorded in 2010, up from 39 deaths in 2008 - a 66 percent increase. The third highest major prescription drug category, Hydrocodone, noted 30 overdose deaths in 2010 (no 2008 comparable numbers available for this release).
 
"With Methadone's wider use, it has a higher abuse potential," said Gunson.
 

Information for all counties with at least one drug-related death and a comparison of drug-related death categories during the last 11 years is available through the State Medical Examiner’s 2010 statistical review at http://www.oregon.gov/OSP/SME/index.shtml.

 

Note that prescription drug overdose deaths statistics are statewide and are not included with the information provided on the State Medical Examiner's website.
 
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The purpose of the Medical Examiner Division is to provide direction and support to the state death investigation program. The Medical Examiner manages all aspects of the state medical examiner program and has responsibility for technical supervision of county offices in each of the 36 counties of Oregon. The division is staffed by four full-time forensic pathologists, supported by four staff personnel located in the Portland Metropolitan area. Further administrative support and oversight are provided by the Department of Oregon State Police. The main activity of the division is to certify the cause and manner of a death requiring investigation within the authority of ORS Chapter 146. This activity includes post mortem examination and alcohol and drug analyses. The division also maintains appropriate records and provides lectures and training on legal medicine and death investigation to medical school physicians and students, attorneys, law students, police officers, emergency medical technicians, and other persons associated with the death investigation system.