PORTLAND – Heroin deaths in Oregon reached a record high in 2012, according to the state medical examiner, and the victims were younger than in previous years.
Dr. Karen Gunson told the Oregonian that victims of heroin overdoses were predominantly people in their 20s.
Heroin killed 147 people and accounted for 65 percent of illegal drug deaths.
Overall, the number of people who died from illegal drugs last year dropped 7 percent compared to 2011. About half of the 223 Oregon drug-related deaths occurred in Multnomah County.
Gunson said, however, the numbers came with a trend among rural residents.
While drug-related deaths in rural counties were lower than in populous Multnomah County, the deaths in rural areas took place in communities near major highways. People may by substituting heroin for more expensive or unavailable drugs, she said.
“We are also seeing a trend – and the police would agree – of people who were addicted to prescription opioids turning to heroin because they can’t get their prescriptions filled or can’t afford to pay the street price,” Gunson said.
Oregon saw a decline in prescription drug deaths.
Gunson said the state’s prescription drug monitoring program may have played a role in the decline.
Methamphetamine deaths decreased from 107 in 2011 to 93 in 2012. Meth overdoses were blamed for all drug deaths in eight mostly rural counties.