After more than a decade battling deadly addictions to prescription drugs, law enforcement is finally putting a win on the board.
According to numbers from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, overdose deaths are leveling off after a 139-percent increase between 2001 and 2010. The numbers of deaths topped out at 870 in 2014. 2015 saw a decline to 823 deaths.
Last year, overdoses caused by prescription painkillers accounted for 59 percent of all overdose deaths; a big improvement from just five years ago when that number was 72 percent.
Doctors and law enforcement agencies are crediting new laws and public awareness campaigns with the decline. But the improvement comes with a nasty side effect, an alarming rise in deaths from harder, illegal drugs.
“All 50 states are seeing…drops in prescriptions written for opioids, they're seeing spikes in heroin deaths and heroin use,” Mark Woodward with OBN said.
Last year, 31 Oklahomans died from heroin overdoses, the most in the last five years and 2016 is on track to hit 40, Woodward added.
“With it being more difficult to get some of those pain pills that some of these people have been on for a decade, they're still having to feed that opioid addiction and they're seeking the heroin once again, so it's coming back up,” he said.
Deaths from Methamphetamines are increasing too. In 2015 they accounted for one third of all drug deaths in the state, meaning despite the state's increased efforts in the war on drugs, they admit there's still a lot of fighting left to do.