Drug use — Of the 222 people who died due to illicit drug use last year, 123 have been attributed to meth, Oregon medical examiner says

Illegal drugs contributed to the deaths of 222 people in Oregon last year, according to new numbers from the Oregon State medical examiner.

That figure is roughly on par with drug deaths in 2012, but methamphetamine related deaths rose.

Methamphetamine was a factor in 123 deaths last year, the highest number since 2011. Heroin was a factor in 111 deaths.

State Medical Examiner Dr. Karen Gunson said while meth is prevalent across the state, most heroin deaths were in likely in Portland, Medford and OREGON STATE MEDICAL EXAMINERS OFFICE - Sobering numbers - State Medical Examiner Dr. Karen Gunderson found that meth killed 123 people in 2013, the highest number since 2011, and that meth is prevalent across the state.

“Heroin deaths are always more concentrated in the areas of highest population,” she said. “Meth is more widely distributed by a long shot."

Gunson says methamphetamine users rarely die from overdoses, but the drug increases their blood pressure and encourages risk taking. It is a factor in many deaths involving car crashes, accidents, drowning, heart attack and stroke.

Gunson says her office investigates all deaths that result from violence, accident, drug use and natural cases if a person dies alone without a doctor’s care.

She added that deaths are only counted as meth-related if a substantial amount of the drug is found, but that trace amounts turn up in many more cases.

“We see lots and lots of methamphetamine, sort of as a background in our toxicology,” she said.

Prescription painkillers like Oxycodone contributed to 150 deaths; more than either methamphetamine or heroin.

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