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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow New substance abuse trends strong in Oregon

New substance abuse trends strong in Oregon

Kitchen-cooked synthetic stimulants, overstocked heroin now on sale, binge drinking, chewing and smoking by underage youths and “dabs” of concentrated cannabis all have a vigorous foothold in Oregon, where the perception of substance abuse risk to children age 12 and older is among the lowest in the United States. 

Union County Safe Communities Coalition hosted speaker Matt Vogel, a health promotion specialist with Southern Oregon University, who spoke about these trends before a mixed audience of health care, school, law enforcement and substance prevention professionals from Northeast Oregon. 

“Synthetic drugs tweak molecular formulas of any compound just slightly enough to allow producers to skirt around the Federal Analog Act of 1986,” Vogel said. 

Bath salts have become a popular family of synthetic stimulants related to cathinone, an amphetamine-like stimulant found naturally in the Khat plant of Africa and the Middle East, which is chewed like tobacco, according to Vogel.

“But if you drill down into these plants and find the psychoactive component in it, cathinones are really powerful stimulants,” Vogel said.

One common component of bath salts is methylenedioxypyrovalerone or MDPV, initially a pharmaceutical drug from the 1960s used to treat Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. However, some patients were becoming addicted to it. Since its use was discontinued, some people started packaging it as bath salts. 

“We’re at an all-time high for synthetic drugs being produced or manufactured and cut under the guise or realm of research chemicals,” Vogel said. “Over the past five years these drugs have exploded. It’s estimated that every week there is a new one that people will actually use and like.”

In addition to bath salts, heroin is reappearing on the streets. For a time, people were preferring the opiate oxycodone over heroin, but the tide has turned again.

“Heroin is making a comeback due to an overstock of it,” Vogel said. “Oxycodone has become too expensive, so all that overstocked heroin is coming back and it’s cheaper now.”

A deadly trend is to combine heroin synergistically with other opiates like fentanyl, which is roughly 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine. This can be a lethal recipe for unsuspecting youths.

“Seventy-five percent of drug-related deaths involve two or more drugs,” Vogel said. “And when it comes to adult opiate use, Oregon leads in the nation. Studies show consistently that where there is a low perception of risk, there is greater use of that drug. Where there is a high perception of risk, then there is low use.”

Another trend Vogel warned about is the preparing of cannabis or marijuana with butane hash oil to produce a hybrid concentrate called “a dab.” This manufacturing process involves shooting butane through the cannabis and cooking it. The result is a honey-like substance with a super high tetrahydrocannabinol, which in some adults produces unwanted side effects like anxiety and panic. 

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