Addicted Oklahoma: The prescription drug problem

Fox 25's Special Report: Addicted Oklahoma

Addicted Oklahoma is our investigation of the state's problem with prescription drugs.

Oklahoma has been the top state in the country for prescription drug deaths, and remains high atop that list.

While Governor Mary Fallin made reducing prescription drug abuse a priority in her last state of the state -- the problem remains deadly for a big chunk of Oklahoma.

"It's our number one killer more than cocaine, meth, and heroin combined," said Mark Woodward, spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.

National statistics show Oklahomans exceed the national average of abuse by 232 percent.

Between 2007 and 2012, nearly 4,000 people died from unintentional poisoning deaths - caused by prescription drug abuse.

And now, prescription drugs, not street drugs kill more Oklahomans.

Oklahomans who would never use street drugs become what the OBN calls "accidental addicts".

Related: Addicted Oklahoma: The Other Drugs

"For many of them, they take what the doctor prescribed, wean off and never have an issue. But for some, they're accidental addicts and it's no longer about the pain, it's about feeding an addiction.

Unlike street drugs, prescription drugs are as close as your medicine cabinet. No visits to shady dark alleys, getting them isn't criminal.

And many times, they're paid for by insurance companies---giving these accidental addicts access at little to no cost.

The addiction then takes over.

"There's probably no Oklahoma family that hasn't been touched in some way by someone who's had some kind of substance abuse issue," said Governor Mary Fallin.

Fallin addressed the problem in her State of the State in 2015, directing lawmakers to tighten laws on doctor shopping and creating treatment programs.

This year, she extended that to criminal reforms that would keep some first time offenders from a life as a felon.

But progress is threatened with another state crisis: money.

"Of course now, with the economic downturn not only Oklahoma, but half the state's are experiencing right now it's going to be a tough go, because we have to work with the money we have on hand." Fallin said.

Fallin says she intends to keep as much money in health and human services for mental health programs as possible. She says though the state will rely somewhat on private groups to help.

All week during our Addicted Oklahoma series on prescription drug abuse you can call 405-478-0382 to speak with a representative from Jordan's Crossing and get answers on how to fight addiction.

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