344 Utahns died from prescription drug overdoses in 2014

Utah health officials hope the DEA's Prescription Drug Take-Back event helps reduce the number of deaths linked to prescription drugs. Photo courtesy U.S. Army.

Disturbing numbers in 2014 show that 344 Utahns died from prescription drug overdoses which means an average of 29 people were lost to drug mis-use every month of last year.

“It is an epidemic and it warrants a strong public health response,” said Anna Fondario, an Injury Epidemiologist for the Utah Department of Health. “Utah ranks fifth highest in the nation for drug overdose deaths.

“One of the things we can do is to change the public’s attitude to be less tolerant of the non-medical use of prescription medications. And, also, practicing three simple principles: safe use, safe storage and safe disposal of prescription drugs.”

Most of Utah’s prescription drug overdoses (84 percent) involved prescription pain medications like oxycodone, methadone, hydrocodone and fentanyl.

Fondario said the idea of becoming less tolerant of the non-medical use of prescription drugs includes encouraging Utahns to safely use their prescription paid medications, never sharing them with others, using them only as directed and not mixing them with other prescriptions.

Fondario said in the last decade prescription paid medications have been responsible for more drug deaths in Utah than all other drug categories, including heroin and cocaine, combined.

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