Utah health leaders launch campaign to increase awareness about Opioid misuse

Posted at 5:55 PM, Aug 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-31 22:17:16-04

OGDEN, Utah – Utah health leaders launched a new campaign aimed at educating the public about Utah’s Opioid misuse epidemic.

Every month in Utah, 24 people die from prescription Opioid overdoses – a statistic, health leaders say they can no longer ignore.

Nicholas Call has been in recovery from a prescription pain pill addiction for nine years and he says he was merely following his doctor’s orders to treat the pain aggressively.

“From that point, the next few years of my life were a wreck," Call said. "I lost my family. I lost my job. I lost my life really."

Call’s story is just one of many prompting health leaders to act. Wednesday, McKay-Dee Hospital teamed up with groups such as Use Only As Directed, and Bonneville Communities that Care. They displayed a sculpture at the hospital that holds 7,000 prescription bottles – that’s the number of prescriptions issued every day.

“We're addicting one in four patients who we give pain medication to, so we better make sure we're treating those people correctly, and we're not over-prescribing,” said Dr. Tom Wood, President of Utah Emergency Physicians.

Dr. Wood says the problem of over-prescribing stems from a study conducted 20 years ago. Researchers claimed prescription drugs weren’t addictive to 99 percent of those who used them.

“Unfortunately, we were a bit misguided based on the evidence we had at the time about what we were doing; when we thought we were helping, we were actually harming,” Wood said.

Utah doctors are encouraged to talk with their patients about the potential risks of Opioids and educate them about other types of treatment for pain management.

“There are non-narcotic ways to manage the pain," Wood said. "Over the counter medications are more potent and effective for pain management than we give them credit for."

For more information about the campaign and available resources, click here.