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The Fight against Opioid and Drug Addiction in Utah

Dane Olsen was 17 years old and a senior in high school when a friend invited him to go on an ATV ride after school. The ATV rolled over on him, crushing his right leg. He was hospitalized for ten days, enduring a number of surgeries during that time. Dane took OxyContin to help him cope with the pain. It was after this time that Dane’s mother, Terry Olsen, noticed a change in Dane’s personality. Dane’s OxyContin use had transformed into heroin addiction.

“He became very reclusive and withdrawn,” Terry Olsen said. “And then one day, a friend of his died of a heroin overdose. It shocked (Dane) into coming out and telling us (about his own addiction to heroin).”

Dane’s parents sought counseling and advice from the best sources they could find.

“It was so hard to know who to ask, who to talk to, who to believe,” Terry Olsen said. “We were stymied as far as what our role as parents (should be), and it was heartbreaking to watch Dane being sucked away from us.”

Dane’s parents eventually got him into a 90-day drug rehabilitation program.

“The rehab seemed very successful,” Terry Olsen said. “I was so excited to go to the family group meetings to see my son. He’d put on weight. The light came back in his eyes. He told me one day, ‘You know, I don’t even feel cravings anymore. I’m just so glad to not be a part of that.’”

Dane Olsen got out of rehab at the end of August, 2014. He relapsed into heroin addiction in October of the same year, and died from a heroin overdose on November 23. Dane Olsen was only 25 years old. (Dane’s full story can be seen here)

Terry Olsen shared Dane’s story as the Utah Department of Health launched a new “Stop the Opidemic” campaign to educate Utahns about the dangers of opioids. Dane’s story is one that is becoming all too familiar in Utah — according to the Utah Department of Health, 80 percent of heroin users start with prescription opioids.

Manmade Epidemic

Dr. Raymond Ward, Ogden Clinic Family Medicine Physician and Utah State Representative, is taking an active stance against Utah’s growing opioid and drug addiction problem. Dr. Ward is sponsoring a proposal on Utah’s Capitol Hill that will encourage health insurers to implement policies designed to minimize the risks of opioid addiction and overdose deaths, including facilitating the use of safer treatment options for pain, including acupuncture and physical therapy.

“The fact is, we’ve seen a tremendous increase in the number of deaths due to opioid overdose since the late 1990’s,” said Dr. Ward. “Increased opioid addiction has also had a spillover affect — we are now seeing an increase in deaths from heroin overdoses, as well.”

Opioid Heroin Epidemic Utah.JPG

More than 200,000 Americans have died from overdose deaths in the past 20 years. More than 300 Utahns die each year from drug overdoses — a rate that outpaces annual deaths from car accidents in the State.

Dr. Ward describes opioid addiction as the worst manmade epidemic in modern history.

“Please understand, these are not people that would have died from something else,” Dr. Ward said. “These aren’t elderly folks — this is the 45-year-old man that hurt his back three years ago, and would absolutely not be dead if it weren’t for the opioid prescription he’d been given.”

Dr. Ward encourages physicians to prescribe opioids only as a last resort. He also encourages patients to understand the danger of opioids, and to follow these simple guidelines:

  • Don’t ask for opioid prescriptions unless you feel they are absolutely necessary
  • Only ask for the bare minimum amount that you need, and
  • Properly dispose of any extra opioids you might have in your medicine cabinet.

Dr. Raymond Ward practices at Ogden Clinic’s Cope Family Medicine location in Bountiful, Utah. He treats patients for opioid and drug addiction, often utilizing Suboxone to help his patients overcome the negative effects of addiction and return to being fully-functional, active members of society.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, consider scheduling an appointment with Dr. Ward. To do so, please click here, or call 801-298-4112.

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