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Drug-overdose deaths drop in state, county

Drug-overdose deaths in Oregon dropped 7 percent last year compared to 2011, when Oregon saw its highest level since 2000.

Last year, 223 people in Oregon died from the use of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine or a combination of those drugs, compared to 240 such deaths the year before, according to statistics from the Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office.

Heroin caused the most deaths, 147, or 65 percent of the state's drug-related deaths. A combination of drugs caused 33 deaths, followed by methamphetamine, 93 deaths, 33 deaths due to a combination of drugs and 19 caused by cocaine.

About half of Oregon's drug-related deaths, or 103 of them, took place in Multnomah County. That's a 13 percent drop from 119 in 2011.

Eighty percent of last year's drug-related deaths in Multnomah County were due to heroin use.

Experts have pointed to prescription drug abuse as causing higher rates of heroin use, and thereby more heroin overdoses. As prescription drug habits become too expensive, some users turn to heroin, which is cheaper, easier to get and just as potent, if not more so.

Statewide, prescription drug overdose deaths dropped 12 percent from totals noted the previous two years.

Despite that drop — from 193 deaths in 2011 to 170 last year — methadone use again topped the list, causing the most prescription drug deaths, or 78 last year, down more than 20 percent from 100 in 2011.

Oxycodone-related deaths rose from 56 in 2011 to 66 in 2012; and hydrocodone or vicodin-related deaths dropped from 37 in 2011 to 26 last year.



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