Utah is among the most severely impacted states by the opioid epidemic in the United States. From 2013-2015, the state ranked seventh nationwide for deaths from drug overdose. From 2000-2015, there was a 400 percent increase in deaths from the abuse/misuse of prescription drugs. Prescription opioid-related deaths have been significantly higher in specific counties and local health districts. Utah County is among the worst-affected regions – during 2013-2015, it had one of the highest rates for emergency room (ER) visits for opioid misuse/overdoses.
In an attempt to limit opioid prescriptions, increase awareness and prevent addiction, executives from three health care organizations joined hands with Utah County’s local prevention specialists to launch a new opioid awareness campaign on Feb. 15, 2018. The “Speak Out, Opt Out, Throw Out” campaign, launched in 11 health care facilities, aimed at encouraging people to be vocal about opioid-related risks, substitute opioids with other effective alternatives, and safely discard excess or unused painkillers. Intermountain Healthcare, one of the participating organizations, hopes to achieve a 40 percent reduction in prescriptions of opioid pills for acute pain in 2018.
Due to the severity of the epidemic, Utah County is considered one of the state’s hotspots for opioid-related ER visits. Certain communities like Payson experience opioid overdose mortality rates significantly higher than the average prevailing in Utah. The campaign encouraged health care providers to firstly explore alternative approaches for pain management and secondly prescribe only the required number of pills to patients.
The new campaign, which received federal funding of $60,000, is part of the statewide opioid prevention campaign called “Use Only As Directed” which was launched in 2008 with funding from public and private partners.
High rates of prescription drug misuse among teens and young adults
State-level data indicates that teens have a significantly higher likelihood of abusing prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs compared to illicit drugs. In 2015, 2.9 percent of Utah youth in the 8th, 10th and 12th grades reported past-month use of prescription drugs not prescribed to them by a doctor. Compared to 8th grade students, 10th and 12th grade students had a significantly higher likelihood of reporting past-month, non-medical use of prescription drugs.
Teens abuse prescription drugs for a variety of reasons – to get high or to experiment, to self-medicate, under pressure from peers, to register dissent, to excel, to gain confidence, or to stay alert. Compared to illicit drugs, teens find it easier to acquire prescription medicines. Youngsters are also influenced by drug abuse portrayals in mainstream and social media. Teens abusing prescription drugs often get the medicines from friends or relatives, sometimes without the other person being aware.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), several factors influence the likelihood of teens misusing prescription drugs or other substances, including accessibility of drugs in the neighborhood, community and school, and drug-use patterns within peer groups. Family environment also plays a critical role – teens living in disturbed settings characterized by violence, physical or emotional abuse, mental illness, or household drug use, have a higher likelihood of using drugs.
Dangers of teen drug abuse
Since teen brains are still developing, their ability to evaluate risks and make informed decisions is limited. While all teens experimenting with drugs do not develop an addiction, drug use may be a part of a risky behavior pattern which also includes activities like unprotected sex, driving under the influence (DUI), and other dangerous activities. Repeated drug use patterns can result in poor academic performance, inter-personal problems, mental disorders, memory impairments and the risk of death by overdose.
In 2016, 2 million American adolescents aged 12-17 (7.9 percent of the age group) misused illicit drugs, which included prescription drugs. Drug use patterns and treatment needs of adolescents differ from that of adults. Located in Delta, Utah, White River Academy is the leading boarding school for troubled teens offering state-of-the-art facilities and a safe environment. Our substance abuse treatment programs cater to the unique needs of boys aged between 12 and 17 years. Call our 24/7 helpline number or chat online to know more about our schools for troubled teens.