Overview of the Pacific Northwest region
Although recreational and medical marijuana are now legal in parts of the Pacific Northwest, the overall drug threat to the area is steadily increasing. The region (Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Alaska) remains a national-level transit, source and distribution center for illicit drugs, especially domestic and imported methamphetamine and MDMA (ecstasy). Idaho State Police, for instance, say they see marijuana, meth, prescription drugs and even heroin coming into the state from drug traffickers.
Methamphetamine and heroin pose the most serious drug threats to the region, especially in some rural areas where the drug comes from larger cities. In the last few years, heroin has quickly taken over and is affecting the entire Northwest. Heroin use and trafficking have increased in Oregon and reflect the state’s greatest drug threat, followed by methamphetamine, marijuana, controlled prescription drugs, cocaine and designer drugs.
Cocaine is still somewhat popular in Alaska, with crack or rock being prevalent in urban centers, such as Fairbanks or Anchorage. Cocaine powder and base (“crack”) are available to a moderate degree in the region. Use of the powder form is more prevalent in Portland and the Southern Oregon region, whereas crack cocaine is mostly available and used in Portland. Consistent with national trends, cocaine availability and use continue to decline in the state. The flow of cocaine from the Northwest region into Canada is increasing due to the significant profit potential associated with cocaine distribution there.
Heroin and meth seizures have spiked in the Pacific Northwest. In 2014, for instance, there was a sevenfold increase in heroin seizures and a nearly fivefold spike in methamphetamine confiscation in Alaska’s capital. In April 2015, the Kodiak Police Department made the biggest drug bust in the history of the department when they confiscated meth and heroin with an estimated street value of $2.2 million.
Heroin purity levels in the Pacific Northwest have and continue to remain at lower levels. Black tar heroin produced in Mexico and imported into the Pacific Northwest by Mexican trafficking groups remains the most prevalent form of heroin within the area.
Heroin use is spreading in Wyoming, following the national trend in which people addicted to prescription painkillers increasingly are turning to the street drug—often with deadly results.
The primary cause of the rise in heroin use in Wyoming is the same as it is throughout the United States—people who had become addicted to opiate-based pills made the jump to heroin when they could no longer obtain or afford the medications. More than half of those now using heroin are women and the majority are young adults under the age of 30. Heroin in Wyoming commonly comes from larger cities such as Salt Lake or Denver, where a one-tenth gram dose of the drug that sells for $10 can bring $50 in Wyoming.
We at recoveryas.com understand the difficulties in finding the right treatment program for someone suffering from drug and alcohol addiction in the Pacific Northwest. When you call us toll-free at 1 (877) 968-6283 today, recoveryas.com will help you choose the treatment program that will get you or a lovedone back on the road to sobriety and good mental health.
Abuse of prescription drugs
Prescription drugs are ranked as the fifth overall greatest drug threat to the Northwest area. In a way, these pills are the cousins of the better known and more feared drug—heroin. But unlike heroin, most people don’t realize how potentially addicting and dangerous prescription opiates can be. Users of prescription opiates are increasingly switching to heroin because it is more available, less expensive and provides a more intense high than prescription opiates.
In the Northwest, large numbers of prescription medications continue to be abused, particularly oxycodone and hydrocodone. Deaths from prescription drug overdose make up a larger portion of deaths than heroin, meth and cocaine combined. An emerging issue for Montana is the growth in prescription drug abuse. Each year, prescription drug abuse contributes to the deaths of more than 300 Montanans—making prescription drug abuse 15 times more deadly than meth, heroin and cocaine combined.
Alaska, Oregon and Washington have enacted “immunity laws” regarding access to Naloxone, a medication used to counter the effects of opioids, especially in overdose, and the prescribing and administering of overdose-reverse drugs. These states and Idaho have also passed 911 Good Samaritan laws which generally provide immunity only from low level criminal offenses such as possession or personal use when a person who is either experiencing an opiate-related overdose or observing an overdose calls 911 for assistance or seeks medical attention for themselves or another. These Good Samaritan laws do not protect people from arrest for other offenses, such as selling or trafficking drugs or driving while drugged. These policies protect only the caller and overdose victim from arrest and/or prosecution for simple drug possession, possession of paraphernalia and/or being under the influence.
The business of marijuana
The biggest drug news in the Pacific Northwest in the last year is the legalization of recreational marijuana in three of the region’s states. Voters in Washington, Oregon and Alaska have approved the sale and possession of cannabis for recreational use in addition to access to medical marijuana. The first to open sales, Washington is already feeling the boost to its economy from the retail excise tax revenues produced by the legalization of cannabis. (All marijuana sales are subject to the state’s 8.4 percent sales tax and another 25 percent excise tax.)
The average price of a gram of retail cannabis plummeted 60% in the months following the opening of recreational shops, from an average of $30 per gram to $12 a gram due to an over-abundance of product. Marijuana sales across Washington have continued to increase since the state began allowing legal sales of the recreational drug in 2014. Washington marijuana shops sold a combined $41.5 million in May 2015.
Oregon’s recreational marijuana law, Measure 91, was approved by voters in November 2014. With its passage, Oregon became the third state in the nation, along with the District of Columbia, to end the prohibition on cannabis.
The home grow/personal possession provisions of the Oregon measure went into effect July 1, 2015 for adults 21 and over. However, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) won’t begin accepting license applications from those who want to commercially grow, process, wholesale or operate retail marijuana outlets until January 4, 2016.
The ability to buy marijuana at a retail outlet is not expected to start until the fall of 2016. Measure 91 allows Oregonians to grow limited amounts of marijuana on their property and to possess personal limited amounts of recreational marijuana for personal use. The measure also gives the OLCC authority to tax, license and regulate recreational marijuana grown, sold or processed for commercial purposes. The OLCC does not regulate the home grow/personal possession provisions of the law.
Under Measure 91, adults can have up to eight ounces of marijuana at home and up to one ounce in public. Taxes collected on sales of marijuana will go to fund schools, law enforcement and drug prevention and education programs in the state.
Alaska legalizes marijuana—again
Most people are probably not aware that the Alaska Supreme Court ruled in 1975 that the right to possess, cultivate and consume up to four ounces of marijuana in the home was protected under the state Constitution’s right to privacy. Alaska courts have repeatedly and consistently upheld the opinion that Constitutional privacy protections cover the personal possession, cultivation and use of marijuana in Alaska.
The same day Measure 91 was passed in Oregon, Alaskan voters approved a similar bill. Under the new law, which took effect on February 24, 2015, Alaskan residents over 21 years of age are allowed to smoke marijuana in their own homes and grow up to six plants per residence. Beginning in 2016, marijuana will be cultivated, tested and sold by licensed, taxpaying businesses that require proof of age. However, getting high in public is still illegal in the form of a strictly enforced $100 fine.
Alaska’s new decriminalized cannabis law isn’t as lax as those in Colorado, Washington and the District of Columbia, but it’s still more accepting of the drug than the 47 other states’ policies toward marijuana. For instance, if a person is pulled over in Alaska for expired tags and an ounce of cannabis – the maximum amount allowed under the new law – is found inside the vehicle, the driver will only be ticketed for the expired tag. (That is, unless there’s evidence of getting high while driving, which is still frowned upon.)
While 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use, including Oregon in 1998, Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. Two new government forecasts project that marijuana sales could generate more than $800 million in revenue for those two states before 2020.
Meanwhile, cannabis remains banned by the federal government, which classifies it as a Schedule I drug along with heroin and LSD.
Heroin abuse spreads to the suburbs
The legalization of marijuana in Washington, Oregon and Alaska is not the only major drug story in the Pacific Northwest. In April 2012, it was reported that a new, deadly mix of heroin had been sweeping through the Northwest in the prior month, causing numerous deaths in Washington State. At the same time, Central Oregon authorities also described a rising number of heroin overdoses. It started in Seattle with seven deaths in five days and spread to Portland, where another seven people died.
Police, paramedics and emergency room doctors in Alaska, Oregon and Washington began seeing a lethal spike in heroin abuse after pseudoephedrine, used to make methamphetamine, went behind the pharmacy counter and prescription pain pills like oxycodone became harder to get.
Heroin had cut a gash through the Pacific Northwest in the 1990s. Then prescription pills took over until prices rose and states created prescription drug registries. Now the percentage of those in treatment for heroin in the Northwest region is back up to levels not seen since the ’90s—nearly 8,000 people in Oregon in 2013—and the addicted are getting younger. Heroin use among young adults is soaring, particularly in rural and suburban areas.
In 2013, heroin was the leading reason people ages 18 to 29 sought treatment for substance abuse, far surpassing admissions for alcohol, methamphetamine or prescription drugs. The number of young people admitted for heroin treatment in the Northwest region has more than quadrupled since 2007.
Alcohol still ranks high
A recent study has found that Americans’ binge and heavy drinking has increased, including in the Pacific Northwest. The study reports that beyond regional comparisons, the most striking disparities in alcohol use were found within state lines. For example, in Washington, Jefferson County’s prevalence for drinking is 64.9 percent, where in Eastern Washington, East Adam’s County is just 28.4 percent.
Teton County, Wyoming registered an alarming 70.9 percent as opposed to the state level of 50.9 percent prevalence for drinking. Madison County, Idaho, had the lowest levels of binge drinking in the U.S. in 2012 (5.9%).
Two of the top 10 states for alcohol consumption are in the Northwest region; Idaho is 10th while Montana is sixth in the nation.
Alaska has one of the highest reported rates of binge drinking in the nation and in 2012–2013, Montana’s 9.4 percent of alcohol dependence or abuse among individuals aged 21 or older was higher than the national average of 6.8 percent. Alcohol use in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming was similar to the national average.
Thousands of people die each year in Oregon and Washington from alcohol-related diseases, while hundreds die in the Northwest each year in highway accidents in which alcohol was a factor.
Alcohol is a contributing cause of many violent, suicidal and accidental deaths, especially in rural areas. In Alaska, 108 communities have voted in favor of local option statutes prohibiting the sale, importation and/or possession of all alcohol. Because alcohol remains legal in many areas of Alaska, illegal bootlegging activities continue to be a problem in the local option communities. Bootlegging alcohol of all types has become a very lucrative business in rural Alaska.
If you or a loved one are suffering from substance abuse addiction in the Pacific Northwest region, whether your drug of choice is heroin, cannabis, cocaine, prescription painkillers or alcohol, now is the time for you to think about admission to a drug treatment program. The compassionate addiction specialists at recoveryas.com will help you find the treatment program that will lead you or your loved one back to a life of sobriety. Take the first step toward a fulfilling life by calling us toll free today at 1 (877) 968-6283.
If your insurance coverage is with one of the following companies, recoveryas.com will assist you in finding the help you need. We can work with any PPO coverage and also offer affordable self-pay and financing options for addiction treatment.
Recoveryas.com will never charge you a fee for our placement services, so call 1 (877) 968-6283 now to speak with one of our caring addiction specialists about treatment options in the Northwest region.
- Health Partners
- Value Options
- Blue Shield
- Coventry Health Care
- Care Resources
- Anthem Blue Cross
- United Health Group