Federal officials: Oklahoma overdose deaths keep climbing

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
12/31/2017 02:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Federal officials say overdose deaths in Oklahoma continue to climb, with more than 800 last year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 63,600 people died from overdoses nationwide last year. More than 42,000 of those deaths resulted from some form of opioids.

Projections from the nonprofit Trust for America's Health caution that trend could continue in the future, The Oklahoman reported. In its worst-case, the health policy organization projects that Oklahoma could see as many as 31.7 deaths from drug overdoses for every 100,000 people in 2025. More than 1,200 people could die of overdoses in a single year if the state's population remains unchanged.

John Auerbach, president and CEO of the nonprofit, said while efforts to reduce opioid prescriptions are welcome, it won't address other factors that contribute to the use of drugs, including economic anxiety, discrimination and social isolation.

"We need a comprehensive approach that doesn't just put a Band-Aid on the problem," Auerbach said.

Auerbach said issue of drugs isn't new. He said there are parallels to the HIV epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s.

Auerbach said people with HIV needed health education and ways to reduce the impact of risky behaviors. He said they also needed to know that they wouldn't be discriminated against because of their illness.

"It wasn't enough just to work on one aspect of HIV," he said.

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