On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness information for all Oklahomans, published three times a week.

The Drug Overdose Crisis in Oklahoma

Did you know that overdose deaths involving prescription opioids account for more deaths than alcohol and all illicit drugs combined? Opioids are substances that work on specific receptors in the brain to reduce the intensity of pain. Opioids include illegal drugs such as heroin and prescription medications like oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine and others. Anyone can become addicted, which means anyone can have an increased risk for overdose, injury and death.

Here are some startling national facts.

  • From 1999 to 2016, more than 630,000 people in the U.S. died of a drug overdose.
  • In 2016, 63,600 people in the U.S. died of a drug overdose. Of those deaths, 66 percent involved an opioid.
  • In 2016, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (prescription opioids and illegal opioids) was five times higher than in 1999.
  • On average, 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.

The Impact in Oklahoma

Here are more shocking facts.

  • Between 1999 and 2016, more than 10,000 Oklahomans died from a drug overdose.
  • In 2016, 54 percent of all overdose deaths in Oklahoma involved an opioid.
  • In 2016, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (prescription opioids and illegal opioids) was five times higher than in 1999.
  • In 2016, enough opioids were prescribed in Oklahoma for every adult in the state to have more than 100 pills.
  • Oklahoma leads the nation in non-medical use of pain medicine, and has the highest percentage of individuals 12 and older who use medications for non-medical reasons.
  • On average, one Oklahoman dies every day from an opioid overdose.

Time to Remember, Time to Act

Today marks International Overdose Awareness Day, dedicated to remembering those who lost their battle with addiction and acknowledging the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have died or had a permanent injury as a result of an overdose. Most importantly, this day spreads the message that the tragedy of overdose death is preventable.

Grappling with the Epidemic in Oklahoma

Whether with alcohol, illegal drugs or prescription drug abuse, addiction has reached a crisis level in Oklahoma. There are so many stories of devastating loss from addiction and overdose from the citizens of our state. Local organizations are grappling with the emergency in different ways.

INTEGRIS Arcadia Trails

There are nearly 600 Oklahomans on a statewide waiting list for residential substance abuse treatment services on any given day. Couple that with the fact that one in four Oklahomans suffers from some sort of mental illness, and it is easy to see that there is an undeniable and urgent need for more addiction and mental health services in our state.

Last Fall INTEGRIS broke ground on construction of a state-of-the-art addiction and mental illness treatment center in Edmond, Oklahoma. The INTEGRIS Arcadia Trails Center for Addiction Recovery, as it will be called, is scheduled to open in Spring 2019. For more information about Arcadia Trails, watch the story.

Reversing the Damage with Narcan

Fighting opioid drug overdose with naloxone (the brand name is Narcan) became a top priority of the Oklahoma State Department of Health in 2013. New state law allowed for expanded use of naloxone as a rescue medication in situations outside a traditional medical setting. First responders could now administer naloxone to counteract the effects of opioid overdose. Naloxone reverses an opioid overdose by temporarily knocking the opioids off the receptors in the brain, allowing a person to breathe again.

Following the legislation changes, the health department trained emergency medical personnel across the state on the use of naloxone and then expanded training to fire departments. Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services trained law enforcement agencies.

In May 2017, Gov. Mary Fallin signed a law to allow pharmacies to dispense naloxone to anyone without a prescription. Pharmacies across the state now carry the kits for purchase.

As part of an effort to increase access to naloxone, there are seven sites in Oklahoma City where naloxone kits are available at no cost. For more information about where to find a free naloxone kit, visit the website Think SMART Oklahoma. To learn what to do in case of an overdose, watch this very important video

The Oklahoman’s Addiction Summit

Oklahoma City's daily newspaper The Oklahoman has written about addiction for many years, documenting the life-shattering effects of the opioid crisis. They hope an addiction summit will spur continued conversation and action. 

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 20, they will present two leading national experts along with Terri White, Oklahoma’s Commissioner of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. The summit will be held at The Skirvin and lunch will be provided. There is no charge for the event, which is sponsored by INTEGRIS Arcadia Trails Center for Addiction Recovery and co-sponsored by F.A.T.E. (Fighting Addiction Through Education), Bob Howard, Whitten-Burrage, and Nix, Patterson and Roach L.L.C. 

Gary Mendell of Shatterproof will be the keynote speaker. After losing his son Brian to addiction in 2011, Gary founded Shatterproof to spare other families the tragedy his had suffered. Gary spent decades as an entrepreneur. He founded HEI Hotels & Resorts, a multi-billion-dollar company that oversees a portfolio of 70 hotels. He is also a former trustee and president of Starwood Lodging Trust. That business-world experience gives him a unique perspective in running a non-profit organization like Shatterproof.

Dr. Andrew Kolodny will also speak then join a panel discussion with Mendell and White. Dr. Kolodny is one of the nation's leading experts on the prescription opioid and heroin crisis. He is Co-Director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. Dr. Kolodny previously served as Chief Medical Officer for Phoenix House, a national nonprofit addiction treatment agency and Chair of Psychiatry at Maimonides Medical Center in New York City.

To reserve your seat, email oklahomanevents@oklahoman.com.


INTEGRIS Mental Health offers an online substance abuse screening. This confidential, anonymous screening is made available to all community members free of charge. This screening is provided so that you may quickly and easily find out whether or not professional consultation would be helpful to you. To access this screening please visit www.integrisok.com/imh.

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