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New federals grants announced by Sen. Jeff Merkley, and by Oregon Health & Science University researchers.

FILE PHOTO  - Prescription pills are shown here. Oregon will get an injection of $7.8 million in federal dollars to treat and prevent opioid addiction, officials say.

The money — part of a grant from the U.S. Health and Human Services' state opioid response program — will be used to fund treatment and recovery services. Oregon's share is part of $1.8 billion distributed to fight the pain pill epidemic nationwide.

"I have heard heart-wrenching stories from Oregonians who have lost loved ones after a prescription for an injury or treatment turned into an addiction," said U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, in a statement announcing the grants.

"I've used my seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee to fight for these grant resources," Merkley continued.

Some of Oregon's top research universities are also using federal money to combat opioid abuse.

Oregon Health & Science University and the University of Oregon received $10 million in August in order to create a new center for excellence, which will study intervention strategies. The National Institutes of Health funding will allow scholars to zero in on treatment methods for young mothers who use opioids, as well as data science and neuroscience applications.

Opioid overdoses currently kill 130 Americans every day. About 30% of patients prescribed the pills misuse them, according to the NIH.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - An Evzio auto-injection device delivers a dose of Naloxone in the event of an opioid overdose. The drug can reverse a life-threatening overdose and devices like this one are manufactured to be used by anyone.

Pill ills

More than 1.3 billion prescription pain pills were delivered to Oregonians between 2006 and 2012.

That's according to the Washington Post, which obtained a comprehensive database maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration earlier this year.

The database tracks hydrocodone and oxycodone shipments, which make up about three-quarters of all pain pills sold in the U.S. by pharmacies.

Curry County on the Oregon coast had the highest number of pills prescribed — enough to give 83.6 pain pills to every person in the county, every year, from 2006 to 2012. Here are the equivalent rates for the metro area and beyond:

Multnomah County: 53.9 pills per person, per year

Clackamas County: 54.6 pills per person, per year

Washington County: 36.6 pills per person, per year

Columbia County: 45.4 pills per person, per year

Marion County: 42.2 pills per person, per year

Yamhill County: 40.3 pills per person, per year


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