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Utah Has Worst Record for Prescription Drug Abuse

Utah Has Worst Record for Prescription Drug Abuse

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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Paul Nelson, KSL NewsradioUtah has the worst record of abusing prescription drugs, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Some officials in Salt Lake City are trying to stop this problem from getting even worse.

A fatal mix of oxycontin and heroin killed Michael Doron's son, Joey, three years ago.

"He was smart enough to bypass the system and the drug testing and so forth, and then I found him dead," Doron said.

Doron was one of the speakers at a town hall meeting about prescription drug abuse in Salt Lake City. He says his son started with the pain killer vicodin.

Doron says his son then started buying pills at Skyline High School. This story is not an isolated one. Officials say 307 people in Utah died from an overdose of prescriptions in 2006, up 200 percent from the year 2000 and up almost 860 percent since 1991.

Discovery House nurse practitioner Debra Hobbins said, "There are about 15 to 20 percent of teens [who] have mental health issues like anxiety, depression issues that aren't addressed. So, some of them will self-medicate with opiates or other drugs."

Hobbins says she saw a wave of patients come into the center after the bust of Dr. Warren Stack in May, who is accused of selling painkillers. Hobbins says once the addiction switch turns on, it never goes off.

"After three or four weeks they figure out they're physically dependent and they can't get the script anymore. So, they start buying off the street and it gets too expensive so they transition to heroin, which is very cheap," Hobbins explained.

Some city officials say it's just too easy to get pills nowadays.

Salt Lake City Mayor's Coalition of Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs coordinator Abbie Vianes said, "You're feeling a little blue, you take a pill. You're feeling a little stressed, you take a pill. You're feeling a little overweight, you take a pill."

Vianes says people need more education when it comes to prescription abuse.

"We have to get people to lock up their medications or dispose of them properly," she said.

She says some police stations within the city can dispose of old medications. It's not just prescriptions city officials are worried about. A recent report says 2.4 million teens have abused cough syrup to get high.

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