Oregon sees massive spike in overdoses one year after decriminalizing hard drugs

In 2019, the state’s deaths totalled 280. In 2021, those deaths reached a staggering 607 — a 216 percent increase from 2019.


A year since a ballot measure in Oregon, under Governor Kate Brown, decriminalized the use of hard drugs, the state’s overdose rate has skyrocketed, leaving behind a larger drug problem and no solutions.

Measure 110, which came into effect in February 2021, was designed to provide relief to drug users looking to break their substance abuse by making it easier to seek help without incurring severe legal penalties. For those found in possession of substances like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and more, measure 110 created a maximum $100 fine and removed the felony or misdemeanour charges in most cases. It also allocated $300 million for public health resources intended to help substance users break their addictions.

At the time of the measure’s implementation, Oregon was on the edge of experimental policies designed to address the country’s drug problem. Many states across the US, though skeptical, looked with curiosity at Oregon’s bold strategy.

But just one year later, it’s become increasingly clear the law has been nothing short of tragic. Shemia Fagan, Oregon's Secretary of State, told Blaze News the unintended consequences have only deepened the problem.

"When the voters of Oregon passed Measure 110, we did so because it was a change of policy in Oregon to improve the lives of people, to improve our communities, and in the years since, we haven’t seen that play out. Instead, in many communities in Oregon, we’ve seen the problem with drug addiction get worse," Fagan said.

The problem is worse in some areas than others, mainly taking a toll on the western, more populated area of the state. Grants Pass, a small town in Josephine County, has seen a 700 percent jump in overdoses and a 120 percent increase in deaths, according to the area’s state representative, Lily Morgan.

"How long do we wait before we have an impact that we're saving lives?" Morgan said.

According to the Oregon Health Authority and their 2022 Opioid Overdose Public Health Surveillance Update on May 19th, opioid overdose deaths have become sequentially worse in the past three years. In 2019, the state’s deaths totalled 280. In 2020 that number rose to 472. And in 2021, those deaths reached a staggering 607 — a 216 percent increase from 2019.


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