Wednesday, April 27, 2016

New Data Shows Six People Die Each Week in Utah as a Result of Overdosing on Prescription Opioids

(Salt Lake, UT) – In 2014, 300 individuals died from a prescription drug overdose in Utah. Utah ranks 4th highest in the nation for drug overdose deaths and a campaign is underway to safely dispose of the kinds of drugs that are killing people.

“Our data show that nearly 60 percent of Utahns who were prescribed an opioid in the past year reported that they had leftover medication. Of those with leftover medication, only 27 percent reported disposing it. When improperly stored or disposed of, leftover medications can be dangerous,” said Angela Stander,
Utah Department of Health (UDOH) Prescription Drug Overdose Coordinator. 

The National Take Back Initiative is a nationwide event sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration to encourage people to properly dispose of leftover medications. The UDOH encourages anyone with leftover medications to take them to one of the take back events throughout the state on April 30, 2016. A list of collection sites can be found at

In addition, permanent, year-round disposal sites can be found on the Use Only As Directed website at

In 2014, an average of 24 Utah adults died each month as a result of prescription opioids (14.2 per 100,000 population). Oxycodone drugs accounted for 59.2 percent of all prescription opioid deaths in 2014, followed by methadone at 12.6 percent. Prescription opioids deaths have outnumbered heroin and cocaine deaths combined since 2002.

Additional data from the UDOH shows:

  • Every week in Utah, 10 people die as a result of poisoning; six of which are a direct result of overdosing on prescription opioids.
  • Utah saw a 27.6% decrease in prescription opioid deaths from 2007 to 2010 when the Prescription Pain Medication Program (PPMP) was legislatively established for two years.
Last fall, more than 3,800 federal, state, and local agencies collected 702,365 pounds of unused, expired, or unwanted medications at more than 5,000 collection sites across the United States. The UDOH is urging Utahns to join the National Take Back Initiative on Saturday, April 30 to clean out their medicine cabinets and safely dispose of leftover prescription medications.  

Prescription overdose deaths can be prevented by:

  • Never taking a prescription pain medication not prescribed to you or taking it more often or in higher doses than prescribed.
  • Never sharing prescription pain medications with anyone.
  • Storing medications out of reach with the label attached and the child-resistant cap secured.
  • Keeping track of the number of pills in the bottle so you are immediately aware if any are missing.
  • Disposing of all unused and expired prescription pain medications properly.
Data on the growing prescription drug overdose problem in Utah and ways to prevent it can be found at or  

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Media Contact:
Katie McMinn
Violence & Injury Prevention Program
(o) 801-538-6156 (m) 801-856-6697