Drug deaths down overall, spike in heroin deaths

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Ore. -- Fewer Oregonians overall died from illegal drug use last year than in 2011, but authorities say they have seen a disturbing spike in one certain type of death: heroin overdoses.

Douglas Interagency Narcotics Team (DINT) director, Lieutenant Pat Moore, says he sees the same trend in Douglas County.

Lt. Moore told KPIC News the high number of deaths has a lot to do with the fact that heroin is a depressant. "You're talking about respiratory arrest that's brought on by the reflex, the cardiovascular reflex is depressed, leading to shut down and an inability to breath," Moore said. "It also leads to aspiration while unconscious, which means that people choke on their own vomit."

Lt. Moore says that is why more people die from using heroin than from using a stimulant like meth. "Methamphetamine, which is essentially a toxin, we would experience some type of methamphetamine overdoses lead to death, but people had to poison themselves to the point where their organs shut down," he said. "You don't overdose in the same way on a stimulant than you do on a depressant, that's why you're always going to have more overdose deaths on a depressant than on a stimulant."

He says more people have started using heroin since laws were made to make meth production and prescription drug abuse more difficult.

"A lot of people survived the cocaine of the 80's and the methamphetamine of the 90's, more of those people survived than are going to survive this heroin pandemic that we're experiencing now. It's just a medical fact," Moore said.