the state touted for its plethora of national parks, picturesque ski slopes and clean air - has again gained national recognition.
But it won't be noted in colorful promotional brochures that line dresser drawers in local motels.The state's notoriety comes from residents purchasing prescription or controlled drugs at a volume far above the national average.
According to recent reports by the U.S. Department of Justice's Drug Enforcement Agency, Utah ranks among the top five states in the nation in the purchase of four of the eight substances most commonly abused nationally. These include tranquilizers (Valium, vanax), barbiturates, pain medications and amphetamines - especially in the form of diet pills.
Utahns use 3.3 percent of all methamphetamines prescribed yearly and 1.4 percent of the nation's oxycodone (percodan), the agency reports. Yet the state's population is only 0.7 percent of the nation's total.
The discouraging news, say local health officials, is that while national percentages are declining or remaining constant, local percentages are rising.
And chemical dependency isn't discriminatory; it's affecting both men and women of all ages.
"Women commonly have telescoping of the disease; they move through the addiction cycle five times faster than men," said Gylene Davis, executive director of Parkside Recovery Center of Salt Lake City.
Davis said research is showing that the escalation of the disease could be attributed to the complex hormonal make-up of women and their higher water and fatty cellular structure. Birth-control pills could also enhance the escalation.
"Women also have a tendency to be cross-addicted - one addiction reinforces or leads to another," Davis said. "For example, a woman can be addicted to barbiturates and also food."
For this reason the women at Parkside are treated for their biomedical and psychosocial problems, as well as the disease itself.
"Some women have not given themselves permission or gained the communication skills to express the normal and natural feeling of anger," Davis said. "The anger has to go some place and is often
internalized and expressed through psychosomatic illnesses or depression, which is anger turned inward.
"These psychosomatic and psychological issues put the woman in a high-risk category for multiple and unexplained illnesses and prescription drug abuse."
Despite the addiction, many wom-en are in denial and their first contact with the center is through a concerned relative or mental-health professional. The women feel too much shame to voluntarily seek help.
"There is a greater stigma for a woman in our society to have a drug or alcohol problem," said Maxine Mickelsen, pretreatment intervention specialist at the center. "There is even an old quote that says, `The hand that rocks the cradle should never hold the demon rum.' "
Davis said because of the stigma, she has seen women "near death" before they receive treatment for chemical addiction. The average age of the escalation for women is 30, compared to age 45 for men.
Males admitted to Parkside typically have a profile of polysubstance abuse. They are ingesting a number of substances, including alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, crystal, crack - drugs of abuse, as well as prescription drugs.
"It is rare for us to see men come in addicted to prescription drugs only," Mickelsen said. "Occasionally if we get someone who is just addicted to alcohol, he is in his late 50s or 60s."
Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse:
-Spending increased time at home or "isolating" at work.
-Increased carelessness about personal appearance, house.
-Decreased ambition, unable to finish projects.
-Disturbed sleep patterns.
-Use of prescription drugs to relieve anxiety, depression, apathy, beyond recommended time limit.
-Feeling remorse about increased use.
-Watching the clock for when the next pill can be taken.
-Doubling up on prescribed dose or increased prescribed daily amount.
-Craving the prescription drug.
-Taking two pills to get the same result one gave.
-Making excuses about the need for the drug.
-Hiding a secret supply of drugs.
-Medical/dental problems requiring prescription drugs.
-Trouble at work/home.
-Extreme anxiety experienced as prescription drugs run out.
-Seeing several physicians for ailments requiring prescription drugs.
-Forging or altering a prescription.
-Frequent trips to the emergency room with vague complaints; migraine, backache, arthritis.
-"Requesting" certain medications by name.
-Minimizing amount and extent of use.
-Talk of suicide.
-Mood swings or attitude changes.