From 1999 to 2007, deaths in Utah from poisoning by prescription pain drugs increased almost 600 percent, from 39 in 1999 to 261 in 2007, according to the report.
Johnson pointed out that any misuse of a prescription in Utah is a felony. That even includes taking your prescribed medication for an illness or pain episode other than what it was prescribed for.
The best thing to do with leftover opioids: throw them out, Johnson said. "The recommended way is to mix the pills with something undesirable in a separate bag and take the bottle and cross out any identifying information and throw that away separately," she said.
Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends flushing unused prescription drugs, in Utah experts would prefer that people do not dispose of medicines this way, to avoid contaminating the environment, Johnson said.
In Utah, police stations also have drop boxes to collect unused medications, she added.
Johnson noted that most people are reluctant to get rid of their unused drugs. The main reason: They paid for these drugs and may need them again, she said.
Although enforcing drug disposal is hard, Johnson hopes that public awareness of the dangers of keeping unused opioids around will encourage people to dispose of these drugs.
In addition, Utah is trying to get doctors to prescribe only the number of pills they think a patient will need to deal with their pain, Johnson said.
"It not a big deal for someone to call in and say they are running low," she said. "The doctors are understanding and they will write more."
Dr. James Garbutt, a professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said that, "increased use and misuse of opioid medication is a significant health problem."
Overdose deaths from opioids have risen significantly over the past 10 years, and "this a particular problem in young people who
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