“We’re all in this together,” Weaver said. “We’re not going to arrest our way out of this problem. We’ve got to have our physicians involved. They’ve got to police themselves.”
The latest overdose data show that Oklahomans are being killed by prescription drugs at a rate of nearly two people per day.
The drug overdose fatality count climbed 80 percent over the past decade. Deaths caused by hydrocodone and oxycodone more than quadrupled over the 10-year period.
Weaver said he’s perplexed that the toll has continued to rise despite concerted efforts to call more attention to the problem, which claimed the life of University of Oklahoma linebacker Austin Box and sidelined the career of Oklahoma State University basketball coach Sean Sutton.
“This is something that’s affecting normal Oklahomans,” Weaver said. “School teachers. Police officers. People who are out there functioning in their day-to-day business.”
At least Oklahoma no longer ranks No. 1 in prescription painkiller abuse, as it did several years ago. The latest survey by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows that the Sooner state has fallen to No. 8 on the Rx drug-abuse list.
According to the 2012 survey, 5.2 percent of Oklahomans above the age of 11 took prescription pain medicines for nonmedical reasons during the previous 12 months. The biggest pill poppers were 18-to-25 year-olds, who had an abuse rate of 10.9 percent.
State officials and addiction specialists say they have been particularly alarmed by recent data suggesting that some people who become addicted to prescription painkillers eventually switch to street heroin.
“We’re learning that it’s become a gateway drug to heroin,” said Mullins, the governor’s attorney.
The danger of rising heroin use made headlines this week when actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died of an apparent overdose. Authorities said they found heroin and prescription drugs at his residence. Before his death, Hoffman told an interviewer he had resumed a history of drug abuse last year by taking prescription painkillers, then progressing to heroin.