Out of all 50 states, Utah ranks eighth in the number of prescription drugs overdose deaths, according to Susannah Burt with the state's Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. And, despite a dip in 2008, the number of pill-related deaths in Utah over the past decade has increased by 400%, according to Burt.
How Mormons are dealing with drug abuse
Lisa Ling is the executive producer and host of CNN\'s \
Lisa Ling is the executive producer and host of CNN's "This is Life with Lisa Ling."
I have always thought Utah had low levels of addiction because of the influence of its large Mormon population -- more than 60% of those living there are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I've even known Mormons there who don't drink coffee in deference to their religion's "Word of Wisdom," a health law that strongly discourages people from consuming things that are harmful to their bodies.
You'd have to be hiding under a rock to not know how highly addictive prescription pills can be. And people in Utah, who have statistically speaking been successful at maintaining healthier lives, are no less vulnerable. In fact, because medications are prescribed by a physician, the assumption often is that they're OK.
Many people who've been able to maintain diligence in upholding the LDS Word of Wisdom have fallen victim to pill addiction because of the gray area that doctor-prescribed pills inhabit.
While the Mormon church hierarchy certainly isn't proud of the exploding numbers, it didn't hide from the issue, giving us access to talk to those dealing with the struggles of addiction.
Earlier this year, we spent 12 days in Utah with church leaders and people in recovery as well as people deep in the throes of addiction. I met people who wore their hearts on their sleeves who shared some of their most painful moments.
They allowed me into their worlds because they acknowledge pill addiction is a huge problem within their community and they know they need help.
The people I spent time with are incredibly brave -- particularly Shannon who I'm happy to report has been clean for quite awhile now. I will always be grateful for their courage in sharing their stories.
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