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Organizations team up to combat prescription drug abuse in Utah

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Posted at 10:21 PM, Aug 24, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-25 00:21:44-04

SALT LAKE CITY – A chain of pharmacies is helping to spread the message that sharing isn’t caring, at least as it relates to prescription drugs.

Pharmacy personnel in Smith’s Food and Drug stores are working to make people aware of the dangers involved with prescription drugs, particularly narcotics.

Lt. Michael Ross of the Salt Lake City Police Department said opiate based drugs pose a real threat of addiction and abuse.

"It can happen to anybody,” he said. “You take an opiate drug for so long, no matter who you are: You're going to become addicted. You have to just stand up and realize when you need help."

Ross also said these prescription drugs are more deadly than street drugs.

"When people think of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, you don't realize that more people are dying because of prescription drug abuse than all those three combined,” he said.

The Utah Department of Human Services is teaming up with Smith’s pharmacies to work on the Utah Pharmaceutical Drug Crime Project. They plan to increase the amount of “Use only as directed” messages."

Smith’s Pharmacist Blake Bentley said they hope to educate people on the issue.

"We just want to make sure that everybody who gets prescription pain medications is able to take care of them, use them properly and... make sure that there's no abuse going on,” he said.

Bentley said they are using special bags for their prescriptions that have directions for use, storage and disposal printed on them.

"Every time we dispense medication to patients we put their medications in here, just kind of as a reminder that it's their responsibility to take care of those,” he said.

Ross said he has seen what prescription drug abuse can do firsthand.

"What really hits home for me is it's even hit my family, cause I have a son who is addicted to prescription meds,” he said. “And he got into a program, and he's doing well, and I'm proud of him, but it's been a tough road for him."

Mary is a local mother recovering from prescription drug abuse, and she said she is sharing her story in the hopes it will help others.

"I think people need to be educated on the harmful effects of pain pill medications and that the storage is important, and to lock it up, because you never know what someone is going through,” she said.

Ross said help is available to those struggling with prescription drug abuse.

"I know there's other families out there,” he said. “I know what they're going through and how much pressure it puts on them, but there's help out there."