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Drug Report FInds Meth Still A Problem In Oregon

A coalition of anti-drug groups released  report Tuesday on drug use in the Portland Metro area.  The assembly of statistics is known as the Portland Profile, but it also includes data on drug use throughout Oregon.

As Colin Fogarty reports, the statistics do not show a drop in use of the one drug that’s gotten the most attention from policy makers in the last few years — methamphetamine.

In 2005, Oregon passed the strictest limits in the nation on the ingredients of meth. Oregon was the first state to require a prescription to get the cold-remedy psuedoephedrine.

That state law was followed by a federal law in 2006 aimed at curbing meth across the nation. The result is well known among police agencies.

Judy Cushing: "Meth labs have disappeared almost altogether, actually zero meth labs in the last couple of months."

Judy Cushing heads the Oregon Partnership, an anti-drug group that helped write the Portland Profile.  She says even with progress on local meth labs, the drug is still getting into Oregon.

It’s manufactured in what are known as superlabs in California and Mexico.  But Cushing believes federal limits on the key ingredients of meth have had some effect on the street.

Judy Cushing: "We know the purity is going down and the price is going up.  And those are very, very good signs because then you’re meth addiction is eventually going to go down as well."

But it’s not clear that’s actually happening yet.  In 2006, the number of meth-relelated deaths in Oregon was actually up, surpassing heroin related deaths for the first time.

Sociologist Michael Ponder – who advises the Oregon Partnership on statistics — says its simply too early to see how changes in policy have affected meth use in Oregon and other states.

Michael Ponder: "Anecdotally, we can find individuals by the dozens who report change.  Local groups will say that they see changes in behavior.  But if you’re looking for a comprehensive statewide impact, I don’t think we can say that it’s there.  It takes awhile to turn a battleship."

The report included a number of statistics on other drugs, including this one: One in five Oregonians ages 18 to 25 say they’ve smoked marijuana.  The rate of Oregonians who smoke pot is higher than the national average.  In fact, more teens report they’ve smoked pot than cigarettes.

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