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Which Substances Kill the Most in Oklahoma

by Landmark Recovery

December 13, 2018
A photo of Oklahoma City in Oklahoma

According to the 2017 United Nations Drug Report, five percent of the global population used drugs at least once in 2015 and 29.5 million of those drug users suffer from some type of substance abuse disorder. Drugs and substance abuse is a global problem that impacts millions, but the United States is one of the countries at the forefront of this drug epidemic.

Drug overdose death rates in the United States have consistently risen since 1999. New data from the Center for Disease Control shows that not only the number of drug overdoses continued to rise in 2017 but the rate of deaths per 100,000 increased. In 1999 the death rate from drug overdoses was 6.1 deaths per 100,000, in 2017 that number increased by 360 percent to 21.7 deaths.

While the number and rate of drug overdoses has continued to rise, the pattern of drugs involved in these deaths has changed over recent years. Since 2013, drug overdose deaths that involve synthetic opioids has spiked, increasing by 45 percent just from 2016 to 2017. Similarly, deaths attributed to heroin and natural and semi-synthetic opioids have consistently risen over the past decade or more, however they didn’t change from 2016 to 2017.


Substance Abuse in Oklahoma

A photo of Oklahoma City in Oklahoma

Oklahoma is one state in the country that has been hit harder by the drug epidemic than a lot of others. The most recent data from the Center for Disease Control, shows that from 2015 to 2016 Oklahoma was one of the about 25 states that saw a significant increase in its drug overdose death rates. Oklahoma’s rate increased by 13.2 percent during that time.

Similarly, the drug overdose death rate in Oklahoma, specifically the southeastern portion of the state, is significantly higher than other parts of the country. There are some drugs in particular that have had a stronger effect on the state than others. The drugs that lead the state in death toll over the past decade include: methamphetamine, oxycodone, alcohol, and alprazolam. Alcohol treatment and drug treatment are incredibly important in Oklahoma as the death toll related to overdose increases each year.



Oklahoma has a problem with oxycodone. It is one of the drug that kills the most people in the state, it accounted for 126 deaths in 2016 and almost 1400 deaths since 2007. This means that from 2007 to 2016, oxycodone has been involved in over 20 percent of all drug-related deaths in Oklahoma.

Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic narcotic analgesic which means it is used to control pain. It has historically been a popular drug of abuse among the narcotic abusing population and is synthesized from the poppy plant.

Oxycodone often comes as a prescription known most commonly as OxyContin in 10, 20, 40, and 80 milligram extended-release tablets. It is taken orally or intravenously. The tablets would be crushed and sniffed or dissolved in water and injected.

Euphoria and relaxation are the two most common effects of oxycodone in the brain which is why it has high potential for abuse.


Some physiological effects of oxycodone include:

  • Pain relief
  • Sedation
  • Respiratory depression
  • Constipation


Extended use of the drug can also cause severe liver damage. It is possible to overdose on oxycodone in which case users would experience:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Confusion
  • Shallow breathing
  • Fainting
  • Coma
  • Possible death



Methamphetamine is a highly-addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system in the body.

It is a synthetic drug that is commonly manufactured in clandestine laboratories. Many mexican drug trafficking organizations have become the primary manufacturers and distributors of the drugs across cities in the United States and even in Hawaii. Oklahoma is one state that has become victim to the effects and increased trafficking of the drug. In fact, methamphetamine deaths in the state has steadily increased over the past decade.

In 2007, there were only 39 methamphetamine deaths in the state, but in 2016 that number increased to 278. This is a 612 percent increase over that period. The death rates per 100,000 population increased from 1.1 to 7.1 over that period.

Users will inject or smoke meth for a brief but intense sensation or rush. Oral ingestion of the drug generally produces a longer-lasting high instead of a rush which can continue for about half of a day.


Chronic meth users will normally exhibit symptoms such as violent behavior, anxiety, insomnia, paranoia and more. However, even taking small amounts of the drug can lead to symptoms including:

  • Increased wakefulness and physical activity
  • Decreased appetite
  • Rapid breathing and heart rate
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Increased blood pressure


High doses can elevate the body temperature to dangerous levels. Overheating can lead to stroke, heart attack, and multiple organ problems. Meth can also cause anorexia, memory loss and severe dental problems.

Methamphetamine is Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act meaning it has a high potential for abuse and has some medical use. Today there is only one legal meth product called Desoxyn. It is marketed for treatment for obesity and attention deficit disorder.

According to the the 2018 Oklahoma Drug Threat report published in September, the state continues to say that methamphetamine is the biggest drug problem in the state.

“Methamphetamine remains the greatest illicit drug threat to Oklahoma,” the report said. “The use, trafficking, and distribution of methamphetamine poses a significant threat to law enforcement and the citizens of Oklahoma. Use of methamphetamine remains high as evidenced by the number of treatment admissions, fatal overdoses, and drug lab submittals in Oklahoma.“

In Oklahoma, one of the reasons, that meth has become more popular over the years is because of the change in price. It has become significantly more inexpensive. In 2014, an ounce of meth sold for $1,000 to $1,500, today the same amount sells for $250 to $800.

On the bright side, there is some evidence that more people are seeking treatment for the problem. In 2017, the number of admissions for methamphetamine as the primary drug in Oklahoma increased by 19.2 percent compared to 2016.



According to data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there are 88,000 alcohol-related deaths every year in the United States. This number includes not just alcohol poisoning deaths but also incidences of drunk driving and other deaths due indirectly due to alcohol.

In Oklahoma, alcohol has directly killed 1033 people from 2007 to 2016. It is one of the most deadly substances in the state, accounting for 15 percent of all Oklahoma substance deaths in that period

Drinking too much, either over time or on a single occasion, can have serious consequences for your health. Alcohol has a number of effects on multiple parts of the body.

Drinking a lot can have major effects on the heart, liver, pancreas and can also increase a person’s risk of being diagnosed with cancer.


Heart conditions that can occur from drinking too much include:

  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure


Like the heart, the liver is one of the most important and complex organs in the body, it is used for filtering toxins from the blood, aiding in digestion, helping fight disease and infection and more. The liver is susceptible to alcohol-related injury because it is the location in the body where alcohol is broken down.

Alcohol-related liver damage can eventually turn into alcoholic cirrhosis. It is the most advanced form of liver disease in which the internal structure of the liver is damaged and distorted, it causes thousands of deaths a year.


Some symptoms related to alcohol-related liver disease include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Jaundice or yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • Swelling in ankles or stomach
  • Vomiting blood
  • Confusion


Excessive alcohol consumption can also have a major impact on the pancreas and even lead to pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is inflammation of the organ that causes pain in the upper abdomen that can spread to the back. Other symptoms include

  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Weight loss


Along with all the complications that alcohol can cause to the organs, it can also lead to a long list of cancers. This includes head and neck cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, and more.

Excessive drinking can have disastrous effects on body functions and that is not the end of it. These are just complications related directly to alcohol, when you include problems that occur indirectly from alcohol such as drunk driving accidents, the number of complications skyrockets.



Alprazolam is a benzodiazepine that is mainly prescribed for anxiety and panic disorders. The drug is more commonly known by its brand name Xanax. Xanax prescriptions has lead to widespread abuse across the state of Oklahoma. While more recently the problems with the drug has subsided, they are still prevalent.

From 2007 to 2016, alprazolam has lead to 1073 deaths meaning that 15.7 percent of deaths from this period are directly attributed to xanax abuse.

While xanax is a prescription medication, there are still a number of side effects and withdrawal symptoms associated with the drug that can lead to physical dependence and to major health complications including death.


Some side effects that occur from xanax abuse include:

  • Paranoid and suicidal thoughts
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Seizures



Fentanyl is one drug that has contributed to a spike in drug deaths across the country has remained surprisingly contained in Oklahoma. There were 555 deaths attributed to fentanyl from 2007 to 2016 and despite the increased popularity of the drug nationally since 2013, there was no major increase during those years, it has remained still.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent heroin. It was first developed in 1959 and is used in the states as a painkiller for some operations but only recently started to develop a major illicit market in the United States.

Fentanyl is similar in effects to other commonly used opioid analgesics like morphine. It produces effects such relaxation, euphoria, pain relief, sedation and can lead to feelings of nausea, vomiting and respiratory depression.

It does not take much to overdose on fentanyl, as little as 2 milligrams. The drug is also starting to be used to lace other drugs like heroin and, more recently, cocaine. Illicit drug manufacturers do this to increase the addictive nature of their drugs, however, lacing other drugs with fentanyl increases the risk of accidental overdose as users don’t know that they are ingesting it.


Some symptoms of fentanyl overdose include:

  • Clammy skin
  • Stupor
  • Coma
  • Respiratory failure
  • Death


While the fentanyl hasn’t taken hold of Oklahoma like it has to other states, learning more about the drug is important for countering it, especially when you realize how severe the problem is nationally.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there were over 29,400 overdose deaths from synthetic opioids, most of which being fentanyl in 2017. Compared to the 19,413 deaths in 2016, that is a 51 percent increase in just one year. When you zoom out even further and look at the statistics, the numbers are devastating. From 2002 to 2017, there was a 22-fold increase in the total number of deaths due to the drug.


In Conclusion

It is obvious that there is a major drug epidemic in the United States. However, when you look at each state in particular, you can see that each state has a few specific drugs that need to be addressed. In Oklahoma, the main drugs of abuse are methamphetamine, xanax, alcohol, oxycodone. And while fentanyl has had a major impact nationally, there hasn’t been much of change in the state of Oklahoma. Diagnosing each state is the best way to figure out what is the best path forward. At Landmark Recovery we are committed to treating each and every one of our patients with the individualized care they deserve to get past the struggles of substance abuse. Please reach out to our admissions staff today to learn about treatment options that our drug rehab and alcohol rehab offer.

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About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.