Prescription Drug Abuse in Utah

Prescription drugs on a spoon with Utah flagIt is no secret that Utah struggles with a prescription drug problem. Currently, Utah has a drug overdose rate that is over 60% higher than the national average. Indeed, since the year 2000, the death rate caused by prescription drugs has nearly quadrupled. Not only does prescription drug abuse in Utah cause a problem, on its own, but it also serves to increase the usage of other substances, including harder street drugs like heroin. What is so nefarious about this particular issue is that people are getting their fix from their local pharmacy, as it is our own medical system that has fueled this rise in addiction.

A more deadly issue than any other

As of 2014, nearly one-in-three adults in Utah reported being prescribed opioid painkillers in the past year. This stunning widespread access to dangerous and addictive substances has led us to a situation where a majority of Utahns who die from a drug overdose do so through prescription opioids. In the past several years, an average of 23 Utahns have died every single month from prescription drug overdoses, alone. What is particularly alarming is that Utah doesn’t necessarily rank in the top ten for the amount of prescription painkillers that are prescribed, but it ranks 7th in the country for drug overdose deaths

Legislative attempts to help

In 2014, Utah passed a pair of legislative attempts to help curtail this mounting problem and get the drug overdose rate in our state under control.

The first of these laws was House Bill 11, which is also known as the “Good Samaritan Law.” The Good Samaritan Law allows for individuals to call law enforcement and medical emergency services to report an overdose that they are witnessing without fear of prosecution if they are also in possession of an illicit substance.

The second of these laws was House Bill 119, which is also known as the “Naloxone Law.” The Naloxone Law opens up who a pharmacist or physician is able to prescribe naloxone to. Naloxone is a lifesaving drug that is able to counteract the most dangerous effects of an overdose. What this enables is for physicians to give naloxone to a third party in the life of an addict who is at risk of an overdose, so that they can administer the naloxone and potentially save that person’s life.