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Drug Addiction in Oregon


Drug addiction in Oregon is increasing at staggering rates. Most people automatically associate drug addiction in Oregon with illegal drugs, such as heroin or crystal meth or cocaine. However, there is an increasingly illicit supply of prescription narcotic medications, including fentanyl and oxycodone circulating on the streets of Oregon that also constitutes illicit street drug abuse.

What Is Street Drug Abuse?

Street drug abuse is the term used for using any illicit psychoactive or mind-altering drug for non-medical or recreational purposes. Taking any substance with the intention of getting high or stoned is considered drug abuse.

Statistics for Drug Abuse and Addiction in Oregon

Statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 75 percent of regular heroin users in Oregon who responded to a survey said they would hesitate to call for emergency medical assistance after witnessing a companion overdosing on heroin, out of fear of being arrested. Some attempted to resuscitate the person on their own, while others preferred to leave the overdosing person in a public place in the hope they would be discovered by someone else.

The same statistics also revealed that a total of 47.6 percent of heroin overdoses in Oregon occurred in the user’s home

The Oregon Public Health Division released a report revealing that 16 percent of all fatal drug overdoses were caused by heroin, while 14 percent were attributed to sedative, hypnotic, or anti-epileptic medications. A further 7 percent were caused by psychostimulant drugs and 3 percent were the result of overdosing on benzodiazepines.

Commonly Abused Drugs

Some of the most commonly abused street drugs in Oregon include:

  • Cocaine: Cocaine is a powerfully addictive central nervous stimulant that causes users to feel a temporary sense of euphoria, heightened energy, and a loss of contact with reality. When the effects of cocaine wear off, the user often experiences the opposite effects, such as depression, dysphoria, inability to feel pleasure, excessive lethargy, hallucinations, paranoia, and psychosis.

The drug artificially stimulates the brain to release a surge of dopamine and serotonin into the body, creating a strong imbalance in the brain’s chemistry. At the same time, the drug also blocks the brain’s ability to effectively recycle the excess hormones flooding the system, which results in the stimulant effect.

Tolerance to cocaine develops quickly, so the user needs to take higher doses to achieve the same effects. Eventually, changes to the brain’s chemistry require the user to take higher doses of the drug just to feel normal, even though the drug no longer makes them high.

Detoxing from cocaine can result in symptoms that include tremors, convulsions, high blood pressure, and sudden cardiac death. The psychological withdrawal symptoms can also include deep depression, dysphoria or inability to experience any pleasure, paranoid delusions, violent behavior, psychosis, suicidal thoughts and tendencies, and fiercely intense cravings to take more of the drug.

  • Heroin: Heroin was once the trade name for diacetylmorphine, and was originally marketed as a ‘safe, non-addictive treatment for morphine addiction’. It didn’t take long for authorities to make the product illegal, classifying it as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

The drug is synthesized from the morphine molecules found in the opium poppy, although drug dealers commonly combine, or ‘cut’ the drug with other substances to dilute its purity. Common substances found in heroin include quinine, flour, talcum powder, chalk, powdered milk, confectioner’s sugar, or caffeine.

More recently, drug dealers have been combining heroin with fentanyl, which dramatically increases the risk of fatal overdose.

Heroin works by binding to the brain’s opioid receptors to create a feeling of euphoria in users that short-cut the brain’s natural reward pathways. The brain is artificially triggered to release a flood of dopamine and serotonin into the system that cause a sense of calmness and drowsiness.

In reality, the body’s systems are slowing down. The breathing rate slows down and mental functions become cloudy. The body’s temperature also drops lower than normal and the heart rate can begin to slow down. In heroin overdose, the user’s breathing slows down to such a degree that the body simply forgets to keep breathing.

Regular heroin abusers develop tolerance to higher doses quickly. When usage of the drug stops suddenly, either through incarceration or by trying to quit, the heroin dosages that were previously tolerated by the user can cause overdose, especially if the user returns to injecting the drug at their usual doses.

  • Crystal Meth: crystal meth, or methamphetamine, is a wickedly addictive stimulant drug that acts directly on the central nervous system. Users feel a temporary sense of well-being and heightened energy that is followed by an intense crash when the effects wear off.

The crash usually involves a painful mental breakdown accompanied by extreme psychological symptoms that include fierce cravings to take more of the drug, excessive lethargy, deep depression, aggression, violent behavior, hallucinations, paranoid delusions, and psychosis.

Continued abuse of crystal meth can result in severe psychological addiction, where the addict no longer receives any pleasure from taking the drug. Rather, the addict’s entire existence revolves around preventing the crash by obtaining and taking more and more crystal meth.


Continue meth abuse can cause permanent brain damage, along with irreversible damage to the heart muscle and blood vessels within the brain. Crystal meth can also cause long-term kidney, liver, and lung damage.


Signs and Symptoms of Drug Addiction

The individual signs and symptoms of drug addiction will vary, depending on the drug being taken. However, there are some common signs and symptoms to look for. These include:


  • Powerful compulsions or strong cravings to take more of the drug
  • Spending increasing amounts of time buying, using, or recovering from drug use
  • Increased tolerance to the drug
  • Withdrawal symptoms when usage stops


Treatment Options for Drug Addiction in Oregon

Treating drug addiction can be challenging, but with the right combination of therapies and treatments it is possible to make a successful recovery. Some treatment options include:


  • Cocaine Treatment: treating cocaine addiction can be challenging, due to the severe psychological dependency the drug causes. Users often experience severe psychological withdrawal symptoms that include paranoia, depression, mood swings, and intense cravings to take cocaine that are so strong that the user will do almost anything to get more.


Treatment often involves a combination of individual and group counseling sessions, with the addition of cognitive behavioral therapy to correct self-destructive behaviors associated with addictive drug use.


  • Heroin Treatment: Treating heroin addiction involves a medically-supervised detox process combined with intensive counseling and therapy. The detox process may be medically-assisted, with some people being prescribed with replacement medications such as methadone or Suboxone to minimize the severity of any withdrawal symptoms.


Detox alone won’t break the psychological aspect of the addiction. A combination of individual and group counseling are needed, along with behavioral therapy are used to help correct the dysfunctional attitudes behind addictive drug use and replace them with healthy habits and positive coping skills for living life without the need for heroin.


  • Crystal Meth Treatment: Treating crystal meth addiction is complex, due to the devastating psychological dependence the drug causes in users. There are no FDA-approved medications to treat meth addiction, although other medications may be prescribed to treat withdrawal symptoms, such as antidepressants, anticonvulsants and anti-psychotic medications.


A combination of individual and group counseling sessions, plus behavioral therapy and motivational incentives are often used to treat crystal meth addiction. As the intense cravings to take crystal meth can last for months after the last usage, it’s strongly advised that the recovering person commits to regular attendance at 12-step meetings and other after-care programs to maintain sobriety.


Importance of Seeking Professional Treatment

Many people addicted to drugs attempt to quit using on their own. However, in order to make a successful recovery from drug addiction, it’s important to address both the physical and the psychological aspects of the addiction properly.


If you have fallen victim to drug addiction in Oregon, seeking professional treatment is the first step to recovery. With professional assistance and support, the right combination of treatments can be determined to help each person discover their own path to recovery. Contact an addiction specialist today to start your treatment.