A State of Addiction: Utah's Opioid Epidemic

In this 13-part series, we explore the issue of opioids in Utah - hear people’s stories, dissect the complexities and explore possible solutions. 

In our research, we have discovered many of you have a personal story about the appeal and devastation of opioids. Maybe you are the user or it could be a loved one. For many reasons, UPR wants to give you a chance to share your thoughts, fears... your story. Click here to find out more. 

This UPR original series is brought to you in part by the Association for Utah Community Health, providing training and technical assistance to health centers and affiliates across Utah. More information available here.

When Megan Bohman learned that her neighbors and friends in Brigham City were dying from opioid misuse and abuse she decided as a health education specialists for the Bear River Health Department that something needed to be done. So she applied for a grant and went to work.

Fit to Recover


“People who have an addiction will tell you, you have to find other things that give your life meaning and value,” said Doug Thomas, director of Utah's Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health in the Department of Human Services. “Some people find it in family, some people find it in exercise, the outdoors. A lot of people in recovery are some of the most amazing people because they are giving back to help other people get into recovery, donating their time and resources and energy to help people who are in a similar place to where they were before.” 

A State of Addiction: Rural v. Urban

Dec 5, 2017

It’s a cold, November morning and I’m outside a free detox center in South Salt Lake. It stands out because it’s a modern-looking building in an industrial part of town. Two tired-looking men are pacing under a heater just outside the center’s doors waiting for a woman to call their names so they can begin detoxing from either alcohol or drugs.

A State of Addiction: We All Suffer

Nov 30, 2017

"Had my son. C-section. I was given a prescription for pain pills. They did the trick. They helped with the physical pain, as well as the emotional pain because everything is better when you take opioids. Or so it seems."

A State of Addiction: Treatment And Hope

Nov 28, 2017


John Clark Jr. traces the start of his battle with opioid addiction back to when he was 23 and working at a group home for persons with cognitive disabilities. 

A State of Addiction: A Pathway Forward

Nov 21, 2017

Drug courts are specialty courts designed to divert individuals from the prison system and into treatment for their addiction. Studies have found they reduce recidivism rates and connect individuals with substance abuse issues to treatment. 

Wikipedia and University of Utah

LeAnn Williams was married for 31 years. She just lost her husband this past February to an overdose of Oxycodone. LeAnn gently turned through each page of a scrapbook. In her quiet way, she showed me pictures of falling in love with her college sweetheart, winters spent building snow caves in their yard, and growing a family with three beautiful children in Heber City, Utah.  

A State of Addiction: Breaking The Pain Cycle

Nov 14, 2017

Pain is complex. It's hard to quantify. Pain can be acute or long-lasting. And it changes over time. That can make pain difficult to treat. Opioids play an important role in medicine. They can provide relief to cancer patients whose pain can be excruciating. Opioids can deliver a reprieve for chronic pain patients whose daily lives are often consumed by pain. But this is where their role gets a little murky. 

A State of Addiction: A New Model

Nov 7, 2017



Woodi Reed has been in chronic back pain for the last seven years. In her search for some relief, she has participated in pain clinics to treat her spinal stenosis at the Veterans Administration in Salt Lake City. There she has undergone hypnosis, nerve ablations and been prescribed opioids to help manage her pain. Despite the treatments, the pain has persisted.

Kerry Bringhurst

Exploring the impacts of opioid use on individuals, families, friends and communities in Utah led Utah Public Radio to the Uintah Basin. In Vernal, the boom and bust of demands for oil has left many residents without work. We wondered if unemployment, job injuries, and a depressed economy had led to an increase in opioid abuse.

A State of Addiction: Utah's Tiniest Victims

Oct 31, 2017




Every 25 seconds, a baby is born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) in the United States.

NAS is a constellation of symptoms that the majority of infants exposed to opioids in utero develop in their first days of life outside the womb while going through withdrawal. They may vomit, sweat, shake, develop fevers and diarrhea. Many of these newborns are hyper-stimulated and have difficulty feeding. Often, they lie stiff as boards.

A State of Addiction: The Fifth Vital Sign

Oct 26, 2017



Since 1999, opioid-related overdoses have quadrupled in the United States, and the latest data from the CDC doesn't indicate a reprieve is coming anytime soon.

Stepping back, have you ever wondered how we did we get here? 

A State of Addiction: On the Front Lines

Oct 18, 2017
Utah Department of Health



“There are many times when families are affected by this and it's not always the homeless person or the stressed out dad—it can be the mom, at home. They could have three kids; they could have regular family life like anybody else and just not be able to deal with something quite well at the moment,” said Corey Larsen, firefighter paramedic for Ogden City.

A State of Addiction: A Quiet Problem

Oct 10, 2017
National Institutes of Health

Cottonwood Heights is the type of community where little kids wear helmets while pedaling by on their bicycles; the homes often have two and three car garages, neatly trimmed lawns, and potted flowers decorating the front doorsteps.