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Utah not out of opioid danger, even with a drop in overdoses

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Even though the number of opioid-related deaths in Utah has dropped, some doctors say the state isn’t close to being out of danger yet.  They believe there are still problems on the horizon.

The fact that the number of these deaths went down is fantastic news to Doctor Jennifer Plumb with Utah Naloxone.  She says public education and doses of the drug Naloxone are helping to keep people alive.

Still, she believes the core of the problem is still not being fully addressed.

“We are not seeing an enormous drop in the number of prescriptions going out,” Plumb says.

She says doctors have committed to reduce the number of prescriptions to new patients by 40 percent.  However, you can’t do that with patients who have been using opiates for a long period of time.

“You can’t just cut them back by 40 percent because they’re physically dependent on those medications and that would actually lead them toward illicit substances,” Plumb says, predicting a rise in illegal drug use is going to happen.  “The amount of deaths that are attributed to heroin and illicit substances are going to rise as we are more conservative in our prescribing.”

Plumb believes the number of prescriptions in some counties is still way too high.

“You have more than 100 prescriptions per 100 residents,” she says, in some areas.