A decade ago, the Beaver state was in the top 10 states for rates of drug use across many categories. About 12.63% of Oregonians reported past month illicit drug use, a figure much higher than the national average of 8.82%. And drug-induced deaths exceeded road accident fatalities as well as deaths from firearms.

Not much has changed since then. A 2019 WalletHub study suggested Oregon had the highest percentage of adult drug users in the country.

The following counties are High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas:

  • Clackamas
  • Deschutes
  • Douglas
  • Jackson
  • Lane
  • Marion
  • Multnomah
  • Umatilla
  • Washington
  • Warm Springs Indian Reservation

Read on to find out the top five most used drugs in Oregon.

#1 Marijuana

Like other west coast states, cannabis is legal in Oregon for both medical and recreational use. Consumption is relatively high and Portland is sometimes referred to as Potland.

  • 2010: 328,000 Oregonians reported past month marijuana use.
  • Marijuana is the most commonly cited drug in primary treatment admissions in Oregon.
  • As of December 2016, more adolescents use marijuana than smoke cigarettes in the state.
  • Oregon ranks high among the states for the amount of cannabis it produces. In 2019, the state had a 6-year oversupply of the substance.

#2 Meth

Meth lab seizures in Oregon have decreased in the last 15 years. But crystal meth remains one of the biggest drug threats in Portland and its surrounding areas. Many crack cocaine addicts switch to meth and the drug has made its way into black neighborhoods. This was not the case five years ago and is partly due to a drop in price and a more potent product. 

  • 2011: meth accounted for 203 primary treatment admissions for every 100,000 people. 
  • Between 2011 and 2015, arrests for other drugs remained constant but meth arrests increased by 64% in Portland. More than 20% of burglars and almost 40% of car thieves were charged with meth crimes too.
  • 2018: the drug caused 272 deaths in the state, outweighing deaths from heroin. According to Portland public health officer, Dr. Paul Lewis, about 80% to 90% of heroin users are also taking meth.
  • 2019: a Mental Health America report placed Oregon at number two out of the 50 states for its meth consumption.

#3 Opioids

Prescription Painkillers

Oregon has a prescription drug monitoring program in place. But at 66.1 prescriptions for every 100 people in 2017, the rate of prescription is higher than the U.S. average of 58.7 prescriptions.

  • In 2012, Oregon had the highest rate of recreational use of pain relievers in the country. And this continues to be true.
  • Between 2015 and 2016, 4% of children aged 12-17 misused pain relievers in the state.
  • In 2016, about 7 cases of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome were recorded for every 1,000 hospital births.

Illicit Opioids

Oregonians consume Mexican black tar heroin as well as powder heroin.

  • 2015: 26.9% of the women living with HIV in Oregon contracted the virus through injection drug use.
  • In the last 20 years, unintentional heroin overdose deaths have more than tripled in Oregon. 
  • 2017: 85 deaths in the state were linked to synthetic opioids like fentanyl and 124 deaths were heroin-related. Overdoses are often caused by taking more than one substance so these figures are not mutually exclusive.

#4 Alcohol

Oregon has a drinking problem. Have a look at these shocking facts:

  • 2012: 39.4% of Oregonians aged 18-25 engaged in binge drinking.
  • 2015-2016: 3% of Oregonian adolescents needed treatment for alcohol use and did not receive it.
  • A 2017 study ranked Oregon third in the U.S. for alcohol-related deaths. Seniors over the age of 65 have the highest rate of alcohol-related deaths in the state.
  • As of 2019, alcohol kills more people in Oregon than all other substances put together.

#5 Other Stimulants

Crack cocaine is a problem drug in the inner city. Powdered cocaine and club drugs like MDMA have also been found in a large portion of waste water samples tested at Oregon sewage plants.

  • 2010: about 62,000 Oregonians aged 12 and older consumed cocaine during the previous year. 
  • 2011: 58 people overdosed and died in Oregon as a result of stimulant use including prescription amphetamines.
  • 2019: Oregon ranked fourth out of all the states for its high rate of cocaine use.

Get Treatment for Substance Use in Oregon

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, there is hope. We highly recommend seeking treatment. Health professionals can assist you to get back on your feet, starting with a supervised detox. Treatment also includes therapy which is essential for understanding and avoiding triggers.

Getting help doesn’t have to be more difficult than getting drugs. Contact a rehab program near you to discuss the best options to suit your needs. It’s the first step towards a more healthy and happy life.


  1. Foden-Vencil, K. (2019). Oregon Has A 6-Year Oversupply Of Cannabis, And More Is On The Way
  2. Robles, F. (2018). Meth, the Forgotten Killer, Is Back. And It’s Everywhere
  3. Terry, L. (2017). Oregon ranks third in alcohol-related deaths, study says
  4. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov
  5. https://www.kdrv.com
  6. https://www.hhs.gov
  7. https://www.drugabuse.gov
  8. https://www.samhsa.gov
  9. https://apps.state.or.us
  10. https://www.oregonlive.com
  11. https://www.portlandoregon.gov
  12. https://www.oregon.gov
  13. https://www.wweek.com
  14. https://katu.com

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