Exclusive: White House Deputy Director talks about Utah's drug problem

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 UTAH) – Local and national leaders met in Utah to discuss a growing problem, opiate drugs.

In a 2010 study 457 people died from drug-induced deaths in Utah.

David Borges is a recovering addict. In 2001 he overdosed while living in California.

“I had been dabbling in heroin and ended up taking an overdose,” said Borges.

His roommates found him and called 911.

“They came and administered the narcan and I came to on a stretcher on the way down the stairs on the way to the hospital,” says Borges.

His family later moved to Utah where he says the addiction was easy to continue.

“I was aware that there was a huge opiate problem in Utah. I mean it was much more readily accessible then it was in my home town in California,” he added.

Ten years after his overdose, his youngest brother also overdosed on heroin but narcan wasn’t there to save him.

“The dose that killed my brother, he had been clean for a minute, was less than $10 wholesale up in salt lake. He paid $20 for it.”

Heroin isn’t the only issue. In 2010, 16,000 people died from pain medications like oxycodone and vicodin.

“They are incredibly powerful medications and prescription pain medications many of which are opioid’s function very much like heroin on the brain,” said the Deputy Director of White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Michael Botticelli.

The drugs attack the central nervous system causing the body to slow down

“What ends up happening is people move from prescription medication to snorting heroin to injecting and these are people who never thought they would put a needle in there arm,” said Botticelli.

A drug was created to remove opioids from brain receptors; it’s called naloxone or narcan. First Responders are using it across the country.

“We have the opportunity to keep people alive by the use of this medication. By equipping first responders, they have been able to dramatically save lives and dramatically reduce mortality that has been associated with overdose referrals,” Botticelli added.

One of those lives saved was David Borges.

“Looking back I would have missed out on so much,” said Borges.

There is a bill headed to the State Senate to give our officers the ability to use Naloxone or Narcan. If lawmakers pass it, first responders in Utah will be able to do what they did for Borges; save an overdosed victim’s life.

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