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"Safer, Stronger Tulsa" Begins With Look at Prescription Drug Abuse

Oklahoma Watch

Mayor Dewey Bartlett's series of public safety summits starts by focusing on prescription drug abuse. 

Tulsa County has the 18th most prescription overdose deaths in the U.S. Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Terri White said bringing the problem to light is the first step.

"Once people become aware of it, then they want to know, 'What do we do about it?'," White said. "So it's what can you do in your home? What can you do if you're part of law enforcement? What can our medical community do to address the fact that we have more prescriptions written in Oklahoma than almost any other state in the nation? And those are the plans that are being worked on today."

For every 100 Oklahomans, doctors write 128 painkiller prescriptions.

"But we don't have more Oklahomans experiencing pain," White said. "And so unlike other states where we have doctors sometimes running pill mills, while we may have a few bad actors in Oklahoma, what we have is well-intentioned doctors trying to help their patients, maybe not understanding that patients are doctor shopping and how many other prescriptions they're getting."

Prescription drug overdoses kill more Tulsa County residents ages 25–64 than car crashes.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.