Prescription Drug Addiction And Death Rampant In Utah

Prescription Drug Addiction And Death Rampant In Utah

A recent editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune on the dangers of prescription drugs suggests that in the five days from when it was written to when it was delivered to readers, five more people will have died from prescription drug addiction or abuse.

The editorial says: "By the time it lands in your driveway, the odds are that five Utahns will have perished, that five families will be grieving, children will be orphaned, spouses will be widowed, and parents will be preparing to bury a child, all because of prescription drugs."

The specific drugs found most dangerous in Utah are the same drugs that are driving prescription drug addiction and deaths all across America - legal opioid and narcotic pain relievers like Vicodin, Lortab, Percocet, fentanyl, hydrocodone, and the two biggest narcotic killer-painkillers in America, OxyContin and methadone.

Yet in spite of the numbers of people in Utah dying from prescription drug addiction, overdose and abuse, there has been little public outcry, or demands that something be done about it.

"If child molesters or drunken drivers or cultists were killing 300 Utahns a year, imagine the clamor," the newspaper says. "But this, for the most part, has been a silent epidemic."

The Utah Department of Health has decided to take a proactive approach to the gorwing problem of prescription drug addiction and abuse by intensifying its multimedia public education campaign. The slogan for the advertising messages, which warn of the dangers of prescription drugs, is "Use Only as Directed".

"The slogan is short, punchy, to the point and, hopefully, effective," the Tribune says. "If Utahns would simply follow that rule for their prescription medications, there would be a lot less work for the medical examiner, a lot more room at the morgue, a lot less mourning."

The paper reports that narcotic painkillers are "equal-opportunity killers. Half of the victims are male, half female. They range in age from 15 to 80. Most have, or have had, a prescription for the drug that did them in."

Deaths from prescription drug mishaps have grown at an alarming rate, and are now the number one cause of accidental deaths in the state, exceeding even traffic accidents. A decade ago, about 40 to 50 people died each year in the state from prescription drug overdoses or deadly combinations of prescribed medications. Last year, 320 lost their lives - nearly one a day.

The same picture is emerging across the country, as state after state reports sharp increases in prescription drug addiction, abuse, and deaths.

Pulling no punches, the Tribune editorial points the finger at everyone involved in the prescription drug supply chain. Physicians, pharmacists, pharmaceutical companies, the health insurance industry and drug consumers themselves, all need to share the blame.

Doctors play too fast and loose with the prescription pad, and pharmacists can fail to provide verbal warnings or detect forged prescriptions. Drug manufacturers offer physician's incentives for prescribing their drugs, which is a sore point right now with congress and many states. Some insurance policies encourage use of inexpensive opioids instead of non-narcotic pain relievers, which could be effective and far less dangerous. And finally, consumers fail to follow the most important advice of all: "Use only as directed."

Pain killers are killing more than pain in Utah and across America. They're killing people, hopes, and dreams. Utah has set up a web site,, to help promote the awareness campaign to reduce prescription drug addiction, abuse and untimely deaths.

If you or someone you know is suffering from prescription drug addiction or abuse, call a medical drug detox counselor right away and get some solid, professional advice.


Rod MacTaggart is a freelance writer that contributes articles on health.

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