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US Attorney Asks for Help Addressing Opioid Epidemic in Utah

Andrea Smardon
U.S. Attorney in Utah John Huber

Law enforcement officials are asking for help in curbing what they call a tidal wave of addiction in Utah.

US Attorney in Utah John Huber says law enforcement has had some success in capturing drug traffickers, from members of a Salt Lake City street gang selling heroin to a St. George physician who distributed 74,000 oxycodone pills for non-medical purposes. But Huber says addiction-fueled crime and overdose deaths just keep coming.

“There is an insatiable appetite in Utah for pain pills and for heroin,” Huber says. “We can’t arrest or prosecute our way out of it. We have to address this as a community.”

Huber says a lot of the addiction problems in the state start with drugs that are lawfully prescribed by doctors. His office is planning a summit in September to bring stakeholders together around Utah’s opioid epidemic.

“We hope that the medical community will accept the invitation to look at themselves and consider whether we have too many pills being prescribed,” he says. “If the Department of Health is suggesting that about 60 percent of us who receive prescribed pain pills have leftovers, that’s what we call in our business a clue.”

Huber called on all Utahns to protect friends and family by getting rid of leftover pills in their medicine cabinets. Police stations and pharmacies will be accepting medications on Saturday as part of a national prescription drug take-back initiative.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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