Oklahoma City sits due north of the Mexican border at Laredo, Texas. It’s an easy 622-mile drive from the border to this metropolitan area that serves as a hub from which drug shipments can be broken up and forwarded to other big cities in surrounding states.
The number of fatal drug overdoses in Oklahoma has more than doubled in the past 10 years, according to the state medical examiner’s office. The number of drug overdose deaths was higher than the number of motor vehicle fatalities, with an average of two per day.
Much of the state’s addiction epidemic can be attributed to the overuse of prescription painkillers, which when untreated, has a direct correlation to heroin use. Heroin deaths in the state have increased tenfold in five years.
Prescription drug abuse is Oklahoma’s fastest growing drug problem, state and federal data shows. Four of five victims overdose on widely prescribed medications found in tens of thousands of Oklahoma households.
The casualties of drug abuse are not just hard-core addicts who buy bootlegged meth, crack and heroin from street dealers.
They’re middle-aged and middle-class Oklahomans who start taking pain pills for bad backs and other injuries, never dreaming they could wind up tumbling down the slippery slope of addiction, or worse yet, dying from an overdose.
They’re suburban kids passing around pills they find in their parents’ medicine cabinets.
They’re veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who turn to narcotics to tame the demons of post-traumatic stress.
There’s no doubt that other drugs like meth and cocaine are still a problem, but the fact is, there are five times as many people dying from prescription drugs as are dying from methamphetamine.
The grim statistics help explain why Oklahoma was ranked the No. 1 state in the nation in prescription painkiller abuse last year. They underscore a new reality for law enforcement authorities, health care professionals and public policymakers who agree that we need a holistic approach that addresses those feeding the addictions plaguing our communities as well as one that helps those suffering by investing in diversionary and rehabilitative programs for those already addicted. Law enforcement recognizes that users should have the opportunity for treatment.
The Oklahoma Commission on Opioid Abuse has brought all stakeholders to the table, including doctors, law enforcement officials, treatment and addiction specialists, local business leaders and members of the state legislature to study the state’s epidemic and formulate a plan of action.
During the 2018 legislative session, the commission saw all seven pieces of recommended legislation signed into law. The new laws provide more tools for law enforcement, will help prevent future addicts by limiting initial prescriptions for patients with acute pain, prevent the diversion of opioid prescriptions from flooding the market and hold distributors, manufacturers and businesses accountable through proper oversight.
Families and friends of addicts can contribute to the solution by getting those still suffering into treatment at Avenues Recovery Center in Oklahoma City, where clients receive outstanding round-the-clock clinical and holistic care uniquely tailored to their individual needs.
To begin your own recovery journey or to inquire about our services for a loved one, please call 844-826-2020.