- Associated Press - Sunday, January 4, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Drug overdoses caused by prescription drug abuse are a growing problem in rural Oklahoma.

While most overdoses occur in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties, rural counties in the state represent a growing segment of the prescription drug epidemic, The Oklahoman reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/1BxBase ).

Craig County in northeastern Oklahoma has been the worst in recent years in terms of drug overdoses, both fatal and nonfatal. Craig County posted the highest overdose rates per 10,000 residents in Oklahoma in 2012 and 2013, the most recent years for which such statistics are available.

Records provided by the state Medical Examiner’s Office and Craig County law enforcement agencies indicate that 27.3 out of every 10,000 residents experienced a drug overdose in 2013. The year before, the rate was 35.3 of every 10,000 residents.

Craig County Sheriff Jimmie Sooter said he isn’t certain why his county sits atop the list, though he suspects the problem is rooted in the challenges faced by young people in the area - problems, he says, that don’t abate as they get older.

“There is a lot of peer pressure… a lot of times when the kids get together, there’s a lot of, ‘Hey try one of these or one of those,’” Sooter said. “Prescription pills are a big problem in Craig County… and it starts with the kids (getting involved with drugs).”

Washington County had the second-highest overdose rate in Oklahoma in 2012, when a record 850 people died from overdoses.

According to records, 27.5 out of every 10,000 residents overdosed in Washington County in 2012. A year later, the rate had dipped to 22.7 of every 10,000 residents, dropping the county’s rank to third worst in Oklahoma.

In Oklahoma County, the overdose rate in 2013 was 5.9 per 10,000 residents. That year, 211 county residents died from drug overdoses, the most in the state.

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Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com

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