Readers Respond to Oregon’s Failure to Combat Teenage Addiction

“How about just for once your editors take some responsibility for the mess they helped make?”

Last week, WW published a story from The Lund Report that revealed a bleak distinction for Oregon: Its rate of teenage deaths from drug overdose is rising faster than in any other state. The story identified several failures by state leaders to combat youth addiction before the arrival of fentanyl, the lethal synthetic opioid. But for many of our readers, the story was further evidence of the need to repeal Measure 110, the ballot measure that decriminalized the personal possession of small amounts of some hard drugs. (On March 18, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler expressed frustration with the slow rollout of addiction services funded by the measure. “If it’s not working,” he said, “then let’s just admit it, and let’s move on to something that does.”) Here’s what our readers had to say:

thedeprogrammer, via “1. Drug-related deaths are increasing among Oregon teenagers faster than anywhere else in the nation.

“2. Oregon ranks near the bottom in access to mental health services.

“3. Oregon has a homelessness crisis because the state didn’t plan for adequate housing supply.

“4. During the worst days of COVID, it was revealed that we don’t have enough intensive care beds for our population.

“5. Portland doesn’t have enough prosecutors to clear its court dockets. “6. Per WW, Portland ranks 48th out of 50 cities in cops per capita.

“What do these things have in common? Despite residents paying the second-highest taxes in the nation, state and local government either seems incapable of planning ahead to prevent potential problems before they reach crisis levels or lack the competence to execute on their plans and show meaningful progress.

“For the record, I’m not someone who has an ideological belief that ‘government is bad,’ but given the above, it’s hard to come to any other conclusion than that this government is bad.”

David Hogue, via Facebook: “Easing restrictions on distribution of naloxone, and decriminalization of fentanyl testing strips would be huge.”

Herodotus_Runs_Away, via Reddit: “These stories are tragic and heartfelt, but they are based on the inaccurate premise that if you provide adolescents with more accurate information they will make better risk assessments. This isn’t really the case, IMO. I did some readings about adolescents brains recently, namely, University College London neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore’s book Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain and the two chapters on adolescents brains in Stanford biologist Rob Sapolsky’s book Behave. Anyway, in both cases, the authors highlight that educating teenagers about potential negative consequences in order to inform their risk assessments has very little impact on adolescents’ decision making, and has basically no impact when teens are with other teens. That’s my second big takeaway: Brain science confirms that teens in packs are really fucking stupid. Hmmmm. Teens in packs with minimal adult supervision, ya know, the exact kind of decision and peer pressure environment where they decide to experiment with drugs.

“That is to say, it appears to me that the premise/assumption that we can put a dent in teens overdosing on fent by ‘educating’ them on the risks is not a well-founded premise. In fact, it appears to me that it’s not only unfounded but that the science of teen brains suggests it might not really work.”

Mt. Hood, via “Let’s see…what happened between 2019 and 2021? Measure 110. The voters who approved this measure are killing their own children, and others.

“And this isn’t due to ‘state inaction.’ It’s due largely, if not entirely, to M110. Did people really think you could legalize narcotics but magically avoid the very predictable negative consequences of rolling out the red carpet for a vast drug-selling ecosystem? Did they really think drug-trafficking, drug-dealing criminals were going to suddenly develop a legal/ethical/moral business model? ‘Hey, yeah, we’ll sell legal meth to drug zombies, but no way we’ll sell fentanyl or do business with teenagers, that would be very inappropriate…’

“And now the people who voted for this idiotic child-killing measure are hoping the government will do something before their kid dies? And they’re hoping to do it largely through Oregon’s education system? I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen.”

Small Fringe Sushi, via Twitter: “WWeek endorsed Measure 110. How about just for once your editors take some responsibility for the mess they helped make?”

CORRECTION A story on a proposed capital gains tax (“Stock Answers,” WW, March 15) misstated the tax that would be due on a $1,000 capital gain. It is $7.50, not 75 cents. WW regrets the error.

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