Utah's case is an unique one, as far as prescription drug abuse is concerned. The majority of the state's residents are Mormons, and the Mormon Church completely resists drug and alcohol abuse. However, this abhorrence to illicit drugs and alcohol has served to open the door for prescription drug abuse. Many Utah residents of the Mormon faith look favorably upon prescription drugs, since they are prescribed by actual professionals.
Prescription drug abuse, like painkillers, is a major issue for Utah residents. In the past decade, the state has seen a 400 percent increase in prescription drug-related deaths. Because over 60 percent of Utah's residents are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints aka the Mormon Church, many people with a prescription drug addiction are Mormon.
Drug use is strictly prohibited in the Latter-day Saint community; however, many addictions begin by taking prescription drugs to treat a medical condition. Since they were prescribed by a doctor, many wrongly believe they're okay to take.
Over time, the person may develop a spiraling addiction that leads to seeking out street drugs, like heroin, to continue feeling the euphoric high that they crave. In many cases, people who became addicted to prescription drugs need them just to feel normal.
Utah has ranked top 10 in the nation for overdose deaths over the last 10 years. Between 2013-2015, Utah ranked 7th in the U.S. for drug poisoning deaths, which have outpaced deaths due to firearms, falls, and motor vehicle crashes. Currently, opioid overdose deaths are highest in Carbon, Emery, Salt Lake, Weber, Juab, Duchesne and Tooele counties, where rates are above the state average of 20.3 deaths per 100,000 residents.
In 2014, one-third of adults in Utah had a prescription for opioid painkillers, most notably a powerful opiate at the heart of the crisis, OxyContin. Many of them were among the 65% of state residents who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons. Sometimes, opioids take hold of several members of the same family.
One person dies each day in the state from a prescription drug overdose, a 400% increase since 2000, according to the Utah health department. The toll rises by half again when deaths from heroin are included.
The US attorney in Salt Lake City, John Huber has repeatedly warned of "an insatiable appetite in Utah for pain pills and for heroin". He is right. Many Utah residents, upon finding prescription medication hard to access, go the way of heroin.
Many of the recorded deaths are of people who became hooked on prescriptions for sports or work injuries, or to cope with chronic conditions such as back pain. But there has also been widespread use among Mormons who some LDS church members say fall back on opioid painkillers as a crutch to cope with pressure to live a devout life.
In 2017, Utah providers wrote 63.8 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons compared to the average U.S. rate of 58.7 prescriptions (per the CDC). This represents a 30 percent decline from a peak in 2008 of 91.3 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons.
The age adjusted rate of overdose deaths involving opioid prescriptions is also trending down with 10.8 deaths per 100,000 persons in 2017 compared to 14.6 deaths per 100,000 in 2014
In 2017, there were 456 drug overdose deaths involving opioids in Utah — a rate of 15.5 deaths per 100,000 persons, compared to the national rate of 14.6 deaths per 100,000 persons. Prescription opioids are the main driver of overdose deaths with nearly 70 percent of deaths in 2017 involving these drugs.
The greatest increase, however, occurred among heroin-involved overdose deaths, from 55 deaths in 2010 to 147 deaths in 2017. Many of these cases had the heroin abuser -graduate' to heroin abuse from prescription opioid abuse. In the same 7-year period, deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (predominantly fentanyl) doubled from 50 to 92 cases.
NAS or neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS) may occur when a pregnant woman uses drugs such as opioids during pregnancy.The most recent data on the rate of babies born with NAS/NOWS in Utah is from 2014 and is based on state inpatient databases. From 2008 to 2014, the rate of NAS/NOWS more than doubled from 2.2 cases per 1,000 hospital births to 5.4 cases per 1,000 hospital births.
Of the new HIV cases in 2016, 135 occurred in Utah. Among males, 15.8 percent of new HIV cases were attributed to male-to-male contact and opioid abuse. Among females, 9.5 percent of new HIV cases were attributed to opioid abuse.
In 2015, an estimated 2,702 persons were living with a diagnosed HIV infection in Utah — a rate of 116 cases per 100,000 persons. Of those, 23.4 percent of male cases were attributed to opioid abuse or male-to-male contact and opioid abuse. Among females, 27.7 percent were living with HIV attributed to opioid abuse.
There were approximately 76 new cases of acute HCV (2.5 per 100,000 persons) reported in Utah in 2016 (per the CDC). In Utah, there are an estimated 12,500 persons living with Hepatitis C (2013-2016 annual average), a rate of 610 cases per 100,000 persons. Many of these cases are attributable to opioid abuse.
Despite the crippling prescription opioid abuse issues in the state, there are numerous centers of treatment and rehab in place. There are many types of treatment centers such as long term addiction treatment facilities, short term drug abuse treatment, outpatient detoxification programs, outpatient substance abuse treatment services, inpatient drug abuse treatment and others.
There is a wide range of drug and alcohol rehab facilities available. They include individual psychotherapy, dialectical behavior therapy, couple/family therapy, trauma therapy, trauma-related counseling, cognitive/behavior therapy and others, to name a few. If you need rehab in Utah, all you need to do is place a call to any of the available rehab centers.
If you are addicted to alcohol or drugs, it is imperative that you look for professional help as soon as you possibly can. However, you might not know where to start or the options that are open to you. Similarly, you may have little to no idea about the differences between the different treatment facilities and the programs they have in store for their patients.
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