PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Despite state data that shows prescription opioid overdoses and deaths decreased both in 2019 and 2020, a new report published by OHA found those stats rose again in 2021.
The 30-page report shows, despite progress made in former years on prescription drugs, overdose deaths are up, and the state says fentanyl and meth are the cause.
It’s an addiction crisis killing hundreds of people in Oregon.
Registered pharmacist and executive director of Need 4 Narcan Kelly Sloop says she and her colleagues have worked to combat this trend by educating the community and distributing naloxone, or Narcan, which can help reverse the effects of an opioid overdose or fentanyl poisoning.
“What we are finding is that many of our youth are accidentally being poisoned by fentanyl. When they are purchasing what they think are prescription drugs,” Sloop said. “Overdoses or poisonings in 14 to 18-year-olds increased 77% just last year, and that was through fentanyl.”
As a member of the West Linn School Board, Sloop says she worked to get the “rescue drug” on school campuses after seeing firsthand how drugs like fentanyl were being marketed to children.
“Middle school children may not be aware that what they are taking is actually not a candy, or a prescription medication, but it is a dangerous drug that can be fatal,” she said.
While the state’s newly published report found overdose deaths of all types increased more than 76% from 2011 to 2021, the data shows fentanyl and meth are the biggest contributors.
“Fentanyl and methamphetamine were the drugs most involved in unintentional and undetermined overdose deaths,” the report said.
The new data shows fentanyl-related overdose deaths rose from 226 reports in 2020 to 508 reports last year, an increase of roughly 125%.
With emergency personnel administering naloxone more than 5,500 times last year, Sloop says the priority must be on saving lives first, and recovery second.
“Prevention would be the best, but we also need to save the lives, so we can treat and educate about prevention,” she said.