Utahs Opioid Epidemic
By Doug L. Smith
Mar 17, 2017
Updated Oct 25, 2023
5 min read
Opioid overdoses have reached record high levels throughout the United States and in Utah, according to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Utah, deaths from prescription medications increased nearly 400 percent from 2000 to 2014. Opioids include morphine, oxycodone (Oxycontin), methadone, hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, and other prescription pain medications as well as the street drug, heroin.
To help decrease opioid overdose and possible deaths from opioids, Intermountain Community Pharmacies and Intermountain Medical Group clinics have joined together to make it easier to obtain Naloxone for at-risk patients, their caregivers, and those who request it.
Naloxone is an antidote to opioid drugs. It reverses or stops an opioid overdose when given to a patient in time. Opioids can slow or stop a person’s breathing, causing death. Naloxone cancels out the effects of opioids within the brain and helps the person wake up, which helps keep them breathing. Naloxone cannot be used to get high and it is not addictive. The medication only works if a person has opioids in their system; it does not work on other drugs. Naloxone is legal and approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).
An overdose death may happen hours after taking drugs. If a bystander acts when they first notice a user’s breathing has slowed, or when they cannot awaken a user, there is time to call 911, start rescue breathing (if needed), and give Naloxone.
Previously used in hospitals and in ambulances for decades, Naloxone is common within the medical field. However, not until recently has Naloxone received a lot of attention from the general public in light of the opioid epidemic faced within the United States.
At-risk patients and/or concerned loved ones are encouraged to carry Naloxone, in the same way people with allergies are allowed to carry an epinephrine syringe (“epi-pen”). Naloxone is covered by most prescription insurance plans. Speak with your insurance provider for coverage and cost questions. Intermountain Community Pharmacies accept more than 200 different insurance plans.
The Community Pharmacies and Medical Group clinics have collaborated by educating pharmacists, providers, and patients to ensure safer opioid prescribing procedures and use.
At-risk patients, their caregivers, and those who request Naloxone can get Naloxone from their physician or from their Intermountain Community pharmacist. To get Naloxone without making an appointment with your physician, go into your local Intermountain Community Pharmacy and speak with the pharmacist, who can prescribe Naloxone and provide education on Naloxone and opioid overdose. To find the nearest Intermountain Community Pharmacy, visit IntermountainRX.org.
In addition to improving community access to Naloxone, Intermountain ensures patients receive extra education, including instructions for safe storage and proper use and disposal of unused medications to prevent theft and misuse. All Intermountain Community Pharmacies provide unused medication drop-off bins/envelopes. This service is free and anonymous. For more information on storing and/or disposing medication, visit UseOnlyAsDirected.org.
The opioid epidemic is complex and troubling, and Intermountain Healthcare is working to decrease opioid overdose occurrences and ultimately save lives.