Young Oregonians are near top in drug usage

02/01/2016  By Sue Cody


Eric Martin.2016.02North Coast Prevention Works hosted speaker Eric Martin to two community forums on marijuana and opiates Jan. 21. About 45 people attended the afternoon session at Clatsop Community College.


Over 30 years ago, Martin said he was arrested for alleged attempted vehicular manslaughter. At that time, he smoked marijuana every day. He went through treatment and recovery, and is now an expert on drug addiction, a recovery counselor and an adjunct faculty member at the University of Oregon.


“Treatment facilities are flooded with opiate-dependent patients,” Martin said. There were nearly 5,000 prescription drug overdose deaths in Oregon in the last 15 years, and now more people die of drug overdoses than those who die in car wrecks.


The United States is the No. 1 drug-taking country, with about 5 percent of the world population, the U.S. consumes 60 percent of prescribed drugs and 50 percent of illegal drugs, Martin said. Drinking water in most states has tested positive for unmetabolized drugs that escape in urine and enter the water system.


“When it comes to young people using drugs in the most drug-using country in the world, Oregon ranks in the Top 10 in virtually all the benchmarks of drug abuse,” Martin said. He presented some startling figures about drug use by teens (age 12 to 19) in Oregon compared to other states. In 2015, Oregon ranked sixth in the U.S. for recent drug use.


In the past year, compared to other states, Oregon teens ranked:

• 2nd in illicit drug abuse or dependence

• 2nd/3rd in high school dropout rate

• 3rd for marijuana use

• 4th in cocaine use

• 7th in non-medical pain reliever use


In the previous month, Oregon teens ranked:

• 4th illicit drug use

• 4th binge alcohol drinking (or drinking to get drunk)

• 5th marijuana use



Martin said he has seen drug treatment increase with those who start using drugs at an early age. Studies show that about 8 percent of marijuana users develop a pattern of abuse or dependency problems.


As the body adapts to the drug, the tolerance level grows and the user needs to consume more to get high. Martin said he advanced from smoking any marijuana, to getting picky about the quality, and progressed to using hash and hash oil.


The majority of daily marijuana users also use tobacco – 82 to 84 percent – as compared to 19.2 percent of the general population, he said. A high percentage of U.S. daily users smoke cigarettes, blunts and mole bowls.


Martin pointed out some of the dangers of using marijuana edibles. “If you take it internally, it goes to the liver before it goes to the brain.”


You get a higher proportion of the chemical 11-hydroxyTHC, but not as quickly. This has a bigger effect on the brain compared to simply smoking marijuana.




A 2013 report from the Oregon Health Authority states there were 3.4 million opioid prescriptions in the state of 3.9 million people. Opioids include Hydrocodone, Oxycodone and many others. Heroin is also an opioid.


When pseudoephedrine was outlawed in Mexico because of its use in manufacturing methamphetamines, the Mexican cartels ramped up the production of black tar heroin, Martin said. A person on heroin might look wasted, but they don’t sound wasted, he said. “They can have a lucid conversation and respond to questions.” However, they might nod off mid-sentence and pick up the conversation right where they left off five minutes later.


Martin explained how the chemicals in drugs affect receptors in the brain and turn off the natural pain receptors.


He showed graphs of the increase in substance abuse treatment admissions and overdose deaths related to opioid pain relievers.


“Opiates don’t just kill physical pain, but also kill emotional pain,” Martin said.


In withdrawal from drugs, the person experiences the opposite symptoms of what the drugs do. For marijuana users, sleep problems develop and they remember their dreams. They become angry, irritable and experience anxiety, stress and loss of appetite.


“People coming off heroin often are overwhelmed emotionally,” he said.


Dr. Safina Koreishi, medical director of the Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization (CPCCO) writes, “For decades the medical community and the community at large have been told that chronic pain is not being treated effectively, and that opioid medications were a safe and effective option to treat pain.” She goes on to say, because there is evidence lacking that opioids benefit people in chronic pain, the CPCCO recognizes the relationship between opioid prescribing and addictions.  CPCCO now sponsors a detox center, called Pathways, in Columbia County to help patients who need this vital service.


The consensus of the attendees at Clatsop Community College was that more education was needed to advise young people of the dangers of drugs on their still developing brains. Several in the audience related that too many young people in our community have died of drug overdoses.


Marijuana’s legal experiment


Now that marijuana usage is legal in four states and the District of Columbia, Martin stressed, “The marijuana industry doesn’t want kids using, because we’re in a big experiment here. Manufacturers, retailers, OLCC (Oregon Liquor Control Commission), advocates, growers want adults to use marijuana responsibly. They want the experiment to work.”


Whereas marijuana sales are legal in Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Alaska, there is still a federal law against marijuana sales and usage. There is a policy of non-enforcement of the federal law in states that have legalized marijuana. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee did the groundwork and was responsible for getting the Department of Justice to articulate a non-enforcement policy, Martin said.


In 1961, the United Nations had a Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The UN agreed to limit possession, trade, import, export and manufacturing of certain drugs, except for medical or scientific purposes, in order to discourage drug trafficking. Martin said he didn’t think the U.S. would legalize marijuana until the UN did so.


North Coast Prevention Works is a coalition of citizens dedicated to promoting healthy, substance-free, safe environments for children, families and neighbors. For more information, email or visit the Facebook page