Idaho highlighted on the US map

STATE OF AFFAIRS: Idaho Sees Movement in Fight Against Opioid Addiction

16% of State’s High School Students Abuse Prescription Drugs


BOISE, Idaho – The Gem State in recent years has seen an increase in prescription drug abuse, specifically among youth, according to recent studies, as Recovery Idaho shows its first results since its March 2014 launch, and the state looks toward expansion.


6.5 million people admitted nonmedical use of prescription drugs in the U.S. in 2013, according to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. 4.5 million of those were prescription pain relievers. 44 people die from prescription opioid overdose each day in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And Idaho shows consistency with the rest of the nation.

Idaho addiction


The state ranked 4th in nonmedical use of prescription opioids in people ages 12 and older between 2010-2011, according to a national survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 16% of Idaho high school students took a prescription drug without a prescription, according to the Idaho Office of Drug Policy.


But the state is taking measures to save lives in the state. Legislation went into effect July 1 of this year that makes Naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of opiates, more easily accessible by third parties and removes civil and criminal liability for lay administrators under specific circumstances. It also gives pharmacists the ability to prescribe this medication.


A new CDC report released this year shows Idaho at an average saturation for prescriptions, with only 86 per 100 people. Still, the state does not permit access to clean syringes for people who inject drugs, and does not have naloxone training and distribution programs available to the public at syringe exchange programs or other facilities.


Idaho opiate addiction statistics


While Naloxone is available, the state has not yet enacted a 911 Good Samaritan Law, which protects those who report an overdose from arrest and prosecution. The state does have legal methadone access, and marijuana is still illegal.


There are approximately 6,752 people arrested for drug offenses each year in Idaho, and the arrests reflect the population, unlike many other states. Idaho is 93.8% white, 1.2% black and 5% other. The drug arrests reflect 96.3% white and 1.9% black. Felons are not permitted to vote until their rights of citizenship are restored.


Idaho is one of only 11 states that have increased investment in mental health care every year since 2013, joining the ranks of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia and Washington.


Idaho prescription painkiller addiction


In 2014, the state enacted 3 key pieces of legislation:

  • To require prescribers of controlled substances, except veterinarians, to register with the Controlled Substances Prescription Database, otherwise known as the prescription monitoring program or PMP, upon registration and annual renewal. There is no cost to register.
  • Integration of the Regional Advisory Committees (advisory to the substance abuse system) and the Regional Mental Health Boards (advisory to the mental health system) into a single entity, called the Regional Behavioral Health Board (RBHB), which can accept responsibility for the support services missing under a payer driven system. It expanded the State Behavioral Health on Mental health to be the State Planning Council on Substance Abuse. This legislation better described the role of the State Behavioral Health Authority, DHW’s Behavioral Health Division, and correctly described the role of the Regional Mental Health programs.
  • Legislation amending existing law to revise the list of Schedule III and IV Uniform Controlled Substances.


Every state has its work cut out for it in the fight against alcoholism and substance abuse, but Idaho is taking steps to contain and fight the battle against opiate abuse nationwide. With heroin overdoses quadrupling in the United States over the past decade, every little chip at the stone stronghold on our nation’s addicted is a step in the right direction.

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