More Utahns Abuse Painkillers Than Rest Of Nation
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Utah has more people who abuse prescription pain medication than anywhere else in the nation, according to a new federal report.
The study found that 6.5 percent of Utah's population was using drugs without a doctor's order in 2004 and 2005. That rate was higher than any other state.
The study, conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, shows a troubling trend of prescription painkiller use by kids in junior high and high school, narcotics agent Randy Lythgoe said.
"It's becoming an accepted thing to do in high school, because they (students) don't associate danger with it," he said.
The study showed 7.8 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds used prescription painkillers for nonmedical reasons. 13 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds did the same. The number was just 4.3 percent for those over age 25.
Some young people take drugs from the prescriptions of family members or buy them on the street, where drugs like Lortab sell for $3 to $5 per pill, Lythgoe said. Others may be "doctor shopping," seeing multiple physicians to obtain multiple prescriptions, he said.
The number of Utahns dying from prescription drug overdoses is also rising, said Christy Porucznik, an epidemiologist at the Utah Department of Health.
Per capita, Utah has one of the highest rates in the country.
In fact, in 2005 prescription drug overdoses accounted for more than twice the number of deaths from illegal drugs, although some had obtained the prescription drugs illegally, she said.
Porucznik describes the average Utahn who dies from a drug overdose as 40 years old, overweight and taking a prescription drug.
"People have the idea that it is people who are not part of (mainstream) society, but it is," she said.
Can't blame them. If I lived in Utah I would too. Still 13% of people between ages 18 and 25 seems a bit high.