The Norman Transcript

Crime/Courts

October 15, 2013

Prescription drug abuse is on the rise in Oklahoma

NORMAN — Alcohol abuse is the biggest substance abuse problem in Oklahoma, but prescription drug abuse is becoming a quickly growing trend, said Terry White, commissioner for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

White said that methamphetamines and marijuana also are close behind.

White said the most common prescription drugs found to be used in overdosing include hydrocodone, oxycodone and Xanex in combination with hydrocodone and oxycodone or oxycontin.

Oklahoma ranks fifth in the nation for substance abuse and No. 1 when looking at abuse per capita, White said. Another problem in the state is suicide.

“We’re No. 13 in the nation,” she said. “That is absolutely unacceptable.”

White said suicide is a preventable cause of death and residents can help prevent it.

A program called Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) equips people with basic skillsets to help look for signs that someone might be considering suicide. The person can then ask their friend or family member some basic questions and refer them to a suicide hotline.

“The most important thing you can do is ask, ‘Are you thinking of killing yourself?,’” White said.

If the answer to that question is yes, she said residents should persuade the person to reach out for help, then refer them to a suicide hotline or get them to an emergency room or crisis center.

While the department had significant funding cuts five years ago, White said they have had an influx of dollars the last two years, thanks to the governor’s and legislatures’ leadership.

“It seems that our leadership in the state is really beginning to grasp the significance of this problem — untreated mental illness and addiction,” she said.

In Fiscal Year 2010, the department had more than $20 million cut from their budget. The next two years, they had some small cuts.

In FY 13-14, things seemed to improve. Last year, they received about $6 million new dollars, and $17 million was invested this year.

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