Estimated read time: 1-2 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
Tonya Papanikolas ReportingA new report by the state Health Department shows a serious drug problem in Utah. Over the last 12 years, deaths from drug overdoses have increased almost five times. But the type of drugs behind the overdoses may surprise you.
Deaths from illegal drugs rose over that span and added to the total. But lately, the real increase and problem is deaths caused by prescription drugs. Between 1999 and 2003, prescription drugs fatalities thought to be accidental, quadrupled from 45 deaths to 181.
Many of the drugs used are painkillers like Oxycotin, Loratab, Percaset and methadone, which is used to wean people off other addictive painkillers. The problem occurred in both rural and urban areas and affected both men and women, and it spanned all ages.
Addiction counselors say the news is not surprising. They've seen many people become addicted after taking a proper amount of painkillers for real injuries.
Rick Visser, Addiction Counselor: “A lot of them start out that way, using as prescribed, very legitimate prescriptions. Soon they realize it's serving more than pain relief. It's also being used for emotional relief as well."
Now the Health Department will work on ways to reduce the number of overdose deaths in Utah. They hope to identify certain characteristics that may put people more at risk of death. Oddly, it seems obesity is one of those traits. A typical person who died from an overdose tended to be young to middle-aged and overweight.