Though drug-related deaths are down in Oregon, heroin overdoses are on the rise. According to numbers (pdf) released by the state medical examiner’s office this week, there were 127 documented fatal heroin overdoses in the state last year. That was the most since 2000, when heroin accounted for 131 deaths in Oregon, and it means that heroin killed more Oregonians in 2009 than cocaine and methamphetamine combined. Two of those deaths were linked to a pair of heroin dealers who were recently indicted in federal court.
Local state and federal law enforcement have been getting more aggressive in the past few years in their attempts to hold dealers accountable for overdose deaths. Federal prosecutors can seek a sentence of at least 20 years for dealers linked to a drug-related death, using the federal Len Bias law (named for the University of Maryland basketball star who died of a drug overdose). Prosecutors depend on police and other first responders to help collect key evidence. Police in Multnomah and Marion counties have changed their protocols to treat an overdose death as a crime scene.
Have you used heroin? Have you dealt it? Has someone you love been affected by the drug? What’s the best way to combat heroin use? What’s the best way to respond to overdoses?
- Christopher Young: Forensic pathologist and deputy state medical examiner for the state of Oregon
- Mark McDonnell: Multnomah County senior deputy district attorney in charge of the drug unit
- Scott Nowning: Detective with the Salem Police