Saturday, August 24, 2019

Much as in Appalachia, opioids flooded Utah coal country

Wikipedia base map, adapted
Utah's coal country stands out in the federal database showing where opioid pills were distributed from 2006 through 2012, reports Yue Stella Yu of The Salt Lake Tribune.

Carbon County got enough pills for each resident to receive 105 per year, "the highest per capita rate among all Utah counties, and rivals rates in some Virginia counties in the Appalachian mining region," according to an analysis by The Washignton Post, which fought to get access to the Drug Enforcement Administration data. Adjoining Emery County’s ranked second in the state, at 64.9 pills per resident per year.

Also, "Carbon County had the highest opioid prescription rate in Utah every year between 2006 and 2017, hitting its peak in 2008 at 194.2 prescriptions for every 100 people, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," Yu notes.

"Behind those high rates are families in Utah’s mining heartland who saw their loved ones and friends become dependent on the pills, addicted residents who searched for hard-to-find treatment, strapped parents who sometimes drained retirement funds to pay for it, and those who have grieved losses," Yu writes. "The death rate for Carbon County’s 20,000 residents, calculated from 2011 to 2016, rose to more than three times the state average, according to data compiled for the Utah Legislature last year."

The county "once prospered from its rich coal and oil reserves, but the heavy labor required by the industries takes a physical toll on many workers," Yu notes, citing Debbie Marvidikis, health promotion director of the Southeast Utah Health Department. "The acute need for pain treatments and a lack of access to alternative therapies contributed to the county’s opioid use, she said." Marvidikis said users “were trying to take care of their health needs. What they didn’t know was how addictive opioids are, and how dependent you can become on them in just a matter of a few weeks.”

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