Report: Okla. has high drug overdose death rate

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma continues to have one of the highest drug overdose death rates in the country, due mostly to an explosion in prescription drug abuse, but the state is doing more than most to help curb the trend, according to a national report released on Monday.

Oklahoma had 19.4 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 people, the fifth highest mortality rate in the U.S., according to the study by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Trust for America’s Health, which analyzed 2010 data. The report notes that prescription drug abuse has become a major public health concern as the number of drug overdose deaths has skyrocketed over the last 15 years.

“The rapid rise of abuse requires nothing short of a full-scale response — starting with prevention and education all the way through to expanding and modernizing treatment,” said Jeffrey Levi, executive director of Trust for America’s Health.

The report says Oklahoma is one of four states in which the number of drug overdose deaths tripled since 1999, when Oklahoma’s rate was 5.4 per 100,000. Rates have doubled in 29 states during that time and quadrupled in four others, the report notes.

Substance abuse experts in Oklahoma have long been warning state officials about the rise in prescription drug abuse, and Gov. Mary Fallin made the issue a priority for her administration with an increase in funding for the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

The report also says Oklahoma has taken eight of 10 recommended steps that were developed by a team that included public health, clinical, injury prevention and law enforcement officials. More than 28 states and Washington, D.C., had taken six or fewer steps.

Among the steps taken in Oklahoma are a mandatory electronic monitoring program for prescription drugs, and requirements for physical exams and identification for some prescriptions.

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