Governor’s Statement


Mary Fallin, Governor

from “A State Plan:  Reducing Prescription Drug Abuse in Oklahoma”

Prescription painkillers (opioids) are now the most commonly involved drugs in unintentional overdose deaths. In 2010, 662 Oklahomans died of an unintentional poisoning, compared to 127 in 1999. The majority of these additional deaths were due to unintentional prescription drug overdoses. Combating prescription drug misuse/abuse must become a top public health priority. Per capita, Oklahoma is one of the leading states in prescription painkiller sales and, in 2009, had the highest prevalence of prescription painkiller abuse for the population age 12 and older. One in twelve Oklahomans abuse painkillers, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. Prescription opioid painkillers are four of the top five medications responsible for unintentional overdose deaths. Prescription drug abuse is Oklahoma’s fastest growing drug problem and impacts our state in multiple ways.

Parents suffering from drug addiction can compromise the health and well-being of their families, often leading to greater social services agency involvement. Young people may view prescription drugs as a “less harmful” drug of choice, derailing healthy development and their ability to succeed. Oklahoma workers who abuse prescription drugs contribute to poor work performance, injuries, absenteeism, and lack of economic productivity.

The pattern of drug overdose deaths in Oklahoma has changed considerably over the past 40 years. Immediate action must be taken in order to reverse this rapidly growing epidemic, which has become one of the most serious public health and safety threats to our state. The Oklahoma Prevention Leadership Collaborative’s Prescription Drug Planning Workgroup has developed a state plan with the goal to reduce opioid-related overdose deaths. This state plan is closely aligned with the national plan, Epidemic: Responding to America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis, and identifies specific recommendations for action. The plan calls upon state and community level, and tribal stakeholders to lead successful efforts to reduce the number of drug-related overdose deaths, prevent abuse and diversion, and better assist those seeking to end their addiction to prescription drugs.

In order to address this problem, a broad-based coordination between law enforcement, prevention and treatment providers, the Oklahoma Legislature, community organizations, tribes, and health care is required over the next five years. The state plan represents an important step forward in preventing and reducing the multitude of personal and social problems that our state is experiencing as a result of prescription drug abuse. The goal of the plan is to reduce the state’s unintentional prescription overdose deaths. It is unacceptable for any Oklahoman to lose their life to this preventable problem. The prescription drug abuse epidemic is one of our foremost priorities and we call upon every Oklahoman to join in this effort.  Implementation and sustainability of this state plan are essential to create a safer and healthier Oklahoma.