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It starts innocently enough. Maybe you tweaked your back hooking up the baler, or got kicked by a cow. The pain lingers, and eventually your spouse or kids convince you to visit a doctor, who prescribes a pill. The pain subsides. You feel relaxed. The opioids have worked. And it’s possible they will become a habit.

Opioid painkillers like oxycontin and fentanyl are cheap and effective. But they are highly addictive, as you will read in the stories generated by High Plains Journal editors in the following pages. The addiction is so gripping that some users continue to seek more potent dosages, or new drugs altogether. In some cases, the addiction can be deadly: each day, 115 Americans die of causes related to opioid addiction.

Our research shows that in Oklahoma alone, the cost of opioid addiction totals billions of dollars in lost productivity. The cost to communities can be dramatic, as local law enforcement agencies, healthcare clinics and Emergency Medical Services personnel are not readily equipped to deal with opioid addiction. There is hope. States have developed programs that limit opioid prescriptions, in hopes of preventing addiction.

There are drug take-back programs, to limit the number of unused pills that circulate illegally. And research continues into new products to help folks recover from opioid addiction.

But right now, the power of the opioid pills makes life difficult for many High Plains residents. Please take time to read these stories. 


Opioid Crisis in Rural America

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According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (, opioids are a class of drugs naturally found in the opium poppy plant. Some prescription opioids, such as morphine and codeine, are made from the opium poppy plant directly while synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl or carfentanil, are made by scientists in labs using the same chemical structure. Read more

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It has a name, legal drugs turning into illegal. Research calls it drug diversion. It occurs when legal, often prescription, drugs are obtained in several ways—doctor shopping, forged prescriptions or employee theft. It can also happen when pharmaceuticals are shipped from manufacturers to distributors. Read more

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You don’t often think of a prescription medication as a cause for addiction, but it has become an issue with opioid pain killers. A project among Iowa hospitals is working to help prevent the opioid epidemic from becoming a problem across the state. Read more


Get help

• Call 911 for an opiate overdose or other life-threatening situation.

• Call or visit 1-800-273-8255 or visit if you are struggling with thoughts of self-harm or need mental health support.

• Call the Addiction Resource Center at 1-833-301-HELP (4357), text CONNECT to 741741, or visit for help with substance abuse for yourself or a loved one.

Get rid of unused prescriptions

• Visit or to locate drug disposal drop box in your area.

• Order an Rx disposal kit at

• Contact your local pharmacy.

Get more information

• National Institute on Drug Abuse:

• Farm Town Strong:

• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

• Health & Human Services:

• Opioid Misuse Resource Map: