SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH (GOOD 4 UTAH) - An average of 21 Utahn's die as a result of prescription pain medications each month, according to the Utah Department of Health’s most recent statistics.
Now, as part of National Prevention Week the Utah Department of Human Services is focusing on lowering that number by bringing awareness
In fact, they say 93% of prescription pain overdoses in Utah occur at home and involve pain medications. They also say the death rate exceeds the number of those who die in car accidents.
"Its not uncommon for people who get addicted to pain pills, which are opioides, to become addicted to heroin, a lot of the time it is just because they can't get the pain medication, so then they turn to heroin,” said Elizabeth Sollis from the Utah Department of Human Services.
Sollis says it's not uncommon because heroin is cheaper and often easier to get off the street than prescription medication. She also says most prescription overdose related deaths are taking place in Carbon and Emery County, South Salt lake and Downtown Ogden. However, she says anyone can become addicted and it's up to the patient and provider to recognize a problem.
“In the state of Utah a lot of people don't drink or smoke so for them if they are getting a prescription drug, it's medically prescribed, so they feel like it's safe and if taken as directed it can be,” said Sollis.
In the past Utah lead the nation for prescription drug abuse addiction, but since 2010 that number has leveled off when funding for the prescription pain medication program was eliminated. However, the problem still exists especially for those 18 to 24 years old and those with prior athletic injuries.
"It is still the second primary substance of abuse for people entering into public substance abuse treatment programs,” said Sollis.
“There are a number of public and private substance abuse prevention programs throughout the state of Utah. For more information visit UseOnlyAsDirected.org or hs.utah.gov.