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For Release: March 13, 2013 – Pamela Williams, Office of Communications – 405/271-5601

Prescription Drug Abuse Fast Growing Problem in Oklahoma

Prescription drug abuse is Oklahoma’s fastest growing drug problem. Of the nearly 3,200 unintentional poisoning deaths in Oklahoma from 2007-2011, 81 percent involved at least one prescription drug. In 2010, Oklahoma had the fourth highest unintentional poisoning death rate in the nation (17.9 deaths per 100,000 population). Since the late 1990s, the most common cause of overdose deaths has been prescription drugs. Prescription painkillers (opioids) are now the most common class of drugs involved in overdose deaths in Oklahoma (involved in 87 percent of prescription drug-related deaths, with 417 opioid-involved deaths in 2011).

The most common prescription drugs involved in overdose deaths are hydrocodone, oxycodone, and alprazolam. In Oklahoma, more overdose deaths involve hydrocodone than methamphetamines, heroin, and cocaine combined. Men are much more likely to die of an opioid-related overdose compared to women. Adults age 35-54 have the highest rate of any age group for prescription and non-prescription-related overdoses. Nearly three-fourths (72 percent) of opioid-related deaths occur at a residence.

Many people who misuse painkillers obtain them from family and friends, either by giving or selling their prescription medication or having the medication taken without permission.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health’s (OSDH) Injury Prevention Service offers the following suggestions for preventing prescription drug overdoses:

  • Only take medications as prescribed and never take more than the recommended dosage, especially when taking opioid painkillers.
  • Never share or sell your prescription drugs.
  • Dispose of unused, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs at approved drug disposal sites.
  • Keep all pain medications in a safe place to avoid theft and access to children.
  • Keep medicines in their original bottles or containers.
  • Never drink alcohol while taking medication.
  • Put the Poison Control number, 1-800-222-1222, on or near every home telephone and cell phone for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week access.

Below are additional suggestions to protect children:

  • Avoid taking medicine in front of children as they mimic adult behaviors.
  • Do not call medicine “candy”.
  • Do not let house guests leave drugs where children can find them, for example, in a pillbox, purse, backpack, or coat pocket.
  • When taking medicines, do not put the next dose on the counter or table where children can reach them.
  • Never leave children alone with household products or drugs.

For more information on preventing unintentional poisonings, contact the OSDH Injury Prevention Service at (405) 271-3430 or visit http://poison.health.ok.gov. For help finding treatment referrals call 211. To report illegal distribution or diversion of prescription drugs, call the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control at 1-800-522-8031.

Additional information on preventing prescription drug poisoning can be found on these Web sites:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Office of National Drug Policy


National Safety Council/National Safety Month



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