Fewer Prescriptions, But More Opioid Deaths in Denton County

As Leslie Martin looked through photographs of her son, Zach, she wishes she had more.

"I'm happy for the few that we have," said Martin. "Right now, all I have are the pictures and the memories."

Martin describes her son as a typical kid, but one who struggled with anxiety and depression. Doctors treated him with prescription pills.

"I saw it as something that could lead to addiction," she said. "I had concerns."

Four and a half years ago, Zach Brown took a combination of hydrocodone, flexoral and xanax. The mixture led to an accidental overdose. He was just 19.

"Never did it cross my mind that my son could take one too many pills and die," said Martin.

Brown was one of the many victims of the opioid crisis. Denton County public health officials are now tracking prescriptions, and opioid overdoses. The findings... fewer prescriptions are being written, but more people are dying.

"Our goal is to use this information to spark a conversation," said Matt Richardson, Denton County Public Health Director. "To spark solutions."

Data shows there are 59 prescriptions written for every 100 people in Denton County, down from 76 in 2011. Richardson said that number is still higher than the Texas average, but lower than the U.S. average.

"The fact that these are prescriptions and they begin in a legal framework and then are abused and sold illegally or transferred among individuals, we're seeing the negative effects of that," said Richardson.

The number of heroin related deaths also continues to rise. 37 in Denton County last year.

"That's telling us that while we don't have the looming crisis to the south and the east, we still have some concerns."

Richardson said the data can help spark conversations about how to tackle the opioid epidemic, and possibly lead to policy changes.

With conversation on both the local and national levels, Martin is glad the opioid epidemic is being taken seriously. Her hope, that others don't have to suffer.

"The reason we should continue the conversation is so there's not a single other life lost," she said.

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