Utah Sees 400% Increase in Prescription Drug Deaths over past Decade

percription drug use is on the risePrescription drug overdose deaths have reached epidemic levels in Utah. Out of all 50 states, Utah ranks eighth in the number of prescription drugs overdose deaths, according to Utah’s Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. Despite a brief drop in 2008, deaths from prescription drug abuse are up by 400% over the last decade. While Utah is known for its high Mormon population – many individuals living in Utah are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – even Mormons who otherwise abstain from alcohol and caffeine have still fallen victim to prescription drugs.

Since physicians prescribe prescription drugs, many individuals believe that they are safe to use. In general, all medications are safe for use when they are used exactly as prescribed by physicians. A doctor-prescribed pill habit, however, can quickly become a gray area that many may not initially recognize as drug abuse, reports Lisa Ling in a CNN special on Utah’s struggle with drug abuse.

“I’ve even known Mormons there who don’t drink coffee in deference to their religion’s “Word of Wisdom,” a health law that strongly discourages people from consuming things that are harmful to their bodies,” says Ling. “Because medications are prescribed by a physician, the assumption often is that they’re okay.”In reality, prescription drugs can be highly addictive for all individuals, no matter their religious beliefs.

Understanding the Problem: How Widespread is Prescription Drug Abuse?

Each day, 46 people die from an overdose of prescription pain medications in the United States. Health care providers wrote 259 million prescription pain medications in 2012, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills. An estimated 2 million Americans are addiction to prescription pain relievers, according to the latest research released by the Utah Department of Health at the department’s fall 2014 substance abuse conference. In Utah, Oxycodone is the drug most commonly linked to prescription painkiller overdose deaths, both on its own and in conjunction with other medications.

States with the highest sales of opioid pain relievers also have the highest overdose rates – and Utah is right at the top of this list. Prescription drug deaths are highest amongst the 45 to 54 year-old age group followed, by deaths in the 35 to 44 year-old age group. However, individuals of all ages are abusing prescription drugs. Approximately 3,000 Utah students in grades 8, 10 and 12 reported that they had used prescription drugs in the past 30 days that had not been prescribed to them by a doctor, according to the Utah Department of Health.

Fighting Back Against Prescription Drug Abuse

Recognizing the signs of prescription drug abuse is the first step towards fighting back against this epidemic. A misguided belief that prescription drugs are “safe” can often mask initial symptoms of drug abuse or lead to denial. Common early symptoms of abuse include taking a higher than prescribed dose, taking medications more frequently than recommended by a doctor, or stealing, forging or buying prescriptions for friends and family. “Doctor shopping”, a practice where individuals visit more than one doctor in order to obtain multiple prescriptions, is also common.

If you think you might have a problem with prescription drug abuse, there is no shame or embarrassment in seeking help. Remember, medical professionals are here to help you, not to judge you or a loved one for seeking treatment. The earlier that you address a potential problem, then the easier it will be to treat this problem. Talk to a substance abuse specialist to learn more about prescription drug abuse treatment options.
Sources http://ufsac.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Fall-Substance-Abuse-Conference.pdf http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/02/living/lisa-ling-mormon-drug-abuse-essay/ https://www.lds.org/topics/word-of-wisdom?lang=eng

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