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Drug Addiction in Utah

What is Drug Abuse?

Drug addiction in Utah is an increasingly problematic public health concern. The National Institute on Drug Abuse released a report addressing the link between prescription opioid painkillers and heroin addiction. It’s thought that many people begin their opioid addiction with prescription painkiller medications and then switch to the cheaper option of heroin to feed that addiction, which is believed to be a major factor in the rate of drug addiction in Utah. Drug abuse is defined as taking any type of illicit or illegal drug for recreational purposes, or for the purposes of getting high or stoned.

Statistics for Drug Addiction in Utah

The Trust for America’s Health released a report in 2015 indicating that Utah is ranked the 5th highest state in the country for the number of overdose deaths.

A report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the number of deaths caused by heroin overdose in Utah increased by 42% in the years from 2002 to 2013. However, the same report showed there was a further 27% increase in the number of heroin-related deaths from 2013 to 2014.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) Utah is following a nationwide trend, as the number of deaths caused by heroin overdose has increased by 286% across the country in the years from 2002 to 2013.

Commonly Abused Street Drugs

Though marijuana remains the most commonly abused illicit street drug in Utah, there are many other illegal substances that have high rates of abuse in the state. In addition to marijuana and alcohol, the most commonly abused substances in the state include:


Cocaine is a powerful stimulant drug that acts on the central nervous system. The white powdered form of the drug is commonly snorted through the nose. Processing cocaine further with other substances creates a crystalline version of the drug that can be smoked. Due to the popping sound it makes when smoked, the crystal version is often called crack cocaine.

Using cocaine sends an artificial trigger to the brain that commands it to release a flood of dopamine into the system. The user feels a rush of euphoria, followed by an increase in energy, and a feeling of false confidence.

When the effects of the drug wear off, the user experiences the exact opposite effects. Coming down off cocaine can leave the user feeling a deep sense of dissatisfaction, an inability to feel any pleasure, and extreme fatigue.


Heroin is an opioid drug that is synthesized from the morphine molecule found naturally in the opium poppy. Heroin binds to the opioid receptors in the brain, which triggers the release of a surge of dopamine and serotonin into the body. The user feels a rush of euphoria, followed by an intense feeling of calmness.

The drug short-cuts the brain’s natural reward pathways, which causes dramatic changes within the brain chemistry. Abusing heroin over a period of time tricks the brain into believing it can no longer produce dopamine or serotonin naturally without the artificial stimulus of more heroin. At this point, the person is considered dependent on the drug.

Crystal Meth

Methamphetamine, or crystal meth, is a devastatingly addictive stimulant drug. Using crystal meth triggers the release of a flood of dopamine into the system. At the same time the drug blocks the brain’s ability to re-uptake, or recycle, the hormones effectively, so they remain in the system for an artificial length of time.

Using crystal meth causes the user to feel a rush of well-being, accompanied by increased alertness and activity. After the initial rush, it’s common for users to also enter into a state of high agitation that can often trigger aggressive or violent behavior.

Tolerance to the drug develops quickly, so the user needs to take higher doses in order to achieve the same rush that used to be achieved with smaller amounts. In many users, the drug’s enjoyable effects wear off before the concentration levels in the blood have fallen. In an attempt to maintain the ‘high’, users may continue to take more of the drug, creating a binge-crash pattern that can last for days.

Options For Drug Addiction Treatment

Cocaine Treatment

Treating an addiction to cocaine requires intensive rehab counseling and therapy in order to achieve a successful recovery. There are no FDA-approved medications for treating cocaine addiction.

The detox process commences by the user stopping drug use. Many users may experience unpleasant psychological withdrawal symptoms during the detox process, including extreme fatigue, excessive sleeping, restlessness, anxiety, irritability, sleep disturbances and insomnia, nightmares, agitation, inability to feel pleasure, deep depression, and suicidal thoughts. The psychological symptoms can extend for months after the person’s last use.

Due to the high risk of causing harm to themselves and to others during the detox process, it’s strongly advised that the detox process is conducted under medical supervision in a residential rehab center. Staff is able to administer medications to help treat the worst of any withdrawal symptoms, including antidepressants.

Detox alone won’t treat the addiction, so it is crucial the person seeks professional rehab treatments that include intensive counseling and behavioral therapy.

Heroin Treatment

Treating heroin addiction is safest when the person seeks medically-assisted detox treatments. The person is given prescription treatment medications that can include Suboxone or methadone. The dosage of medication is gradually tapered down until the person is free of both drugs.

The objective of treatment medications is to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms as the person goes through the heroin detox process. Without replacement medications, a heroin addict may experience symptoms that include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, bone aches, muscle cramps, flu-like symptoms, runny nose, fever, irritation, anxiety, and depression.

Intensive counseling and behavioral therapy are used in treatment to help address psychological triggers behind the addictive behavior.

Crystal Meth

Treating crystal meth addiction is complex, due to the devastating psychological dependency the drug causes. The detox process starts within a few hours of the last usage and can cause extreme psychological withdrawal symptoms that include anxiety, confusion, aggression, paranoid delusions, hallucinations, violent behavior, psychosis, and strong suicidal tendencies.

Users withdrawing from crystal meth also experience a deep depression that is so dark many users will return back to a pattern of addictive drug use just to make the symptoms stop. The feelings of paranoia experienced by users are strong enough to cause some people to become homicidal as well as suicidal.

Due to the severity of withdrawal symptoms and the risk of causing harm to themselves and to others, it’s strongly recommended that users conduct the detox process under medical supervision in a residential rehab facility.

The most effective treatments for crystal meth addiction are behavioral therapies to address the psychological triggers behind the addictive behavior. With the right combination of treatments, it is possible to successfully recover from street drug addiction. Breaking the cycle of drug addiction begins by reaching out and asking for help. Dial an addiction specialist today and explore the latest in addiction treatment.