March 19, 2012

Oklahoma No. 1 in prescription pill abuse struggle

Prescription pill abuse is a growing epidemic across the United States, but now it’s known which state in the nation ranks near the top of the list — Oklahoma.

According to a federal survey, as reported by Oklahoma Watch, the state is the No. 1 in the nation for the percentage of people between the ages of 12 years old and up who use prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons. In addition to its No. 1 spot, according to federal statistics Oklahoma is also among the top 10 states for prescriptions painkiller sales and overdose deaths.

As reported by Oklahoma Watch, the number of fatal drug overdoses in the state more than doubled in the past 10 years. There were 739 deaths in 2010, higher than the number of motor vehicle deaths at 683.

The federal survey also determined where most of those using the prescription pills were getting them, and many weren’t from dealers or strangers.

According to the survey, 55 percent of Americans who abused painkillers got them from a friend or relative and didn’t pay for them. Seventeen percent were prescribed the painkillers by a single doctor, while 4 percent got them from a dealer or stranger.

Specifically in Oklahoma — though the case is also true in other states — law enforcement historically focused drug abuse prevention efforts on street drugs, such as heroin, meth and cocaine, while prescription painkiller abuse grew behind the scenes. Law enforcement authorities are now shifting focus on the growing problem of prescription medications and painkillers.

Oklahoma Watch has focused an ongoing investigation on the prescription painkiller abuse epidemic in the state. To read more of State of Addiction, click here.

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