Utah has the fifth highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the United States according to the Utah Department of Health. In 2012, a total of 251 people died from prescription pain medication.
Brock Alder, a treatment specialist for the Bear River Health Department’s substance abuse program, said the problems are local as well as statewide and sometimes the overdoses are fatal. The prescriptions that most often result in overdose are Oxycodone, Methadone and Hydrocodone.
On KVNU’s Crosstalk program Monday, Alder said the use of these drugs has jumped from three percent to 17 percent in the last 10 years.
“One of the ways it happens is what I call ‘innocent addicts.’ That is they have been involved in some kind of health issue, an accident or something, and they are prescribed the medication to help them and they become addicted to it,” Alder explained. “They then have a hard time shaking it and continue to use it.
“The other avenue is basically that of illegal use: people getting it and selling it just like they do with any other illegal drugs.”
Alder said his department offers services ranging from educational information to intensive outpatient treatment and such programs as the Drug Court also help. He said it is always gratifying to see someone addicted to such drugs get help and then turn their lives around.
Allena Pierce, a prevention specialist with Bear River Health Department, said the department is working hard to decrease the number of prescription drug abuse cases. Pearce said it starts at home and at any age.
“We want to make sure from grandma’s purse, having medication in it with little one’s getting into grandma’s purse for a lollypop or whatever, we know that that’s a risk,” Pierce explained. “Anything that is stored in our homes we are very conscientious about keeping those locked away and out of reach so that misuse or abuse does not occur.”
Pierce cautioned against ever sharing medication with a friend or family members. She said it is risky, it can be very dangerous and, more than that, it is illegal.