Silent Epidemic: Addiction In Southern Oregon

Like many areas in the country, southern Oregon is experiencing what public health officials describe as an epidemic of addiction to heroin and prescription opioid pain relievers such as Vicodin and OxyContin. One symptom of this epidemic has been a sharp rise in deaths by overdose.

In this four-part series, JPR reporter Liam Moriarty looks at this problem through the eyes of people on the front lines. 

The first thing I realized when I started reporting on the heroin epidemic in southern Oregon is that pretty much everything I thought I knew about it was wrong.

Liam Moriarty/JPR

Dr. Jim Shames is an addiction specialist and the medical director for Jackson County Health and Human Services. He says doctors like him played a key role in creating the epidemic of addiction to heroin and prescription painkillers. Now, he’s leading innovative efforts to turn it around. 

Liam Moriarty/JPR

Today, we meet Darryl Inaba. He’s a Doctor of Clinical Pharmacy and co-author of “Uppers, Downers, All Arounders,” a book on addiction and the brain that’s widely used as a training text. He says while the belated recognition of prescription opioid addiction is reducing the number of new addicts, not enough is being done to help those already hooked.

Liam Moriarty/JPR

In this final part of the series, we meet 27-year-old Diana Cooper. She’s a mother of four from Medford -- and a recovering heroin addict.

Inside JPR's "Silent Epidemic"

Jul 5, 2015
Public Domain

The search for pain relief is turning respectable members of the community into drug addicts.

It's happened for years, since the introduction of the highly effective and highly addictive opioid pain killers, like Oxycontin and Vicodin. 

Doctors are now trying to limit prescriptions to them, but that's sent some people turning to heroin for relief. 

JPR reporter Liam Moriarty researched the issue in a series of reports, "Silent Epidemic."