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SMART gathered information to identify the extent of alcohol and drug abuse in Utah County. The data will help SMART target prevention efforts toward groups more at risk.

The Substance Abuse Prevention team at Utah County is working with a coalition of community members called SMART (Substance Misuse and Abuse Reduction Team) Utah County to reduce abuse of prescription pain medication and the number of alcohol related motor vehicle crashes in the county. This coalition is composed of doctors, law enforcement representatives, PTA members, parents, pharmacists, religious leaders, treatment professionals, public officials and other community members.

SMART gathered information from north, central, and south Utah County cities to identify the extent of alcohol and drug abuse in Utah County. The data will help SMART target prevention efforts toward groups more at risk.

"Data has been collected from the Medical Examiners Office records, emergency room (ER) statistics, police arrest and vehicular crash data, high school and college substance consumption surveys, and other data related to the availability of prescription drugs and alcohol," said Kye Nordfelt, Utah County Division of Substance Abuse research analyst.

Prescription Pain Reliever Target Population
[Editors note: we calculated each citys rate per 100,000 (e.g. the rate of deaths, ER visits, etc. per 100,000 city residents) so we could compare cities to each other.] Data revealed south Utah County (defined as cities south of Provo) as the area most impacted by prescription pain reliever abuse. "South county cities have the most ER visits, treatment admissions, overdose deaths, shipments of prescription pain relievers into their communities, and youth in south county abuse prescription pain relievers at slightly higher rates," said Nordfelt. "Prescription pain relievers appear more available in the south county possibly leading to higher use rates, higher mortality rates and the highest ER visits across Utah County."

However, when the total number of incidents were counted, roughly 50 percent of overdose deaths and a significant portion of ER visits occurred in central Utah County. This region represents about 43 percent of the total Utah County population.

Over 60 percent of deaths due to prescription pain medication overdoses occurred in males. However, females have a similar number of prescription related ER visits and substance abuse treatment admissions for prescription abuse. The data revealed groups ages 20 to 30 and 40 to 50 as the most impacted by prescription pain reliever abuse. "Data from the Medical Examiner's Office showed that male overdose deaths occur at an earlier age.

As females get older, overdose deaths equal or exceed male overdose deaths," said Nordfelt. Specifically, 70 percent of deaths are males ages 15 to 34. Females ages 50 to 54 and 60 to 64 appear to experience fatal overdoses at a higher rate than males.

Alcohol Abuse Target Population
"Interestingly enough, the alcohol target population is similar to the target population for prescription pain reliever abuse," said Nordfelt . South Utah County was again identified as the area most impacted by alcohol abuse. "South county cities have the highest rate of alcohol related ER visits, treatment admissions, alcohol related motor vehicle crashes, and alcohol sales to minors."

"According to the data we have collected, alcohol is more available in south county. We believe this could be contributing to higher use rates and more alcohol related motor vehicle crashes involving south county residents."

However, as with the prescription data, when looking at total number of cases, central county residents recorded 50 percent of all alcohol related motor vehicle crashes in Utah County.

"Males are most impacted by alcohol abuse, said Nordfelt. They were involved in 75 to 80 percent of alcohol related motor vehicle crashes. He said the data also revealed that individuals ages 25 to 29 and again 40 to 44 recorded the highest number of alcohol related motor vehicle crashes."

"The data does not reveal why certain locations, genders, and age groups are more impacted," said Nordfelt. "SMART is conducting more research using focus groups and a county-wide survey to measure attitudes and perceptions of county residents." SMART will complete this research in May or June of 2009 . They will use this data to help them identify who is abusing drugs and what is influencing their behavior. SMART will then implement prevention strategies aimed at reducing alcohol and drug abuse impact to the community.