SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - A new study shows Americans use more than 80% of the addictive pain pills made in the world.
In Utah, the use of prescription painkillers has exploded. That abuse has led to one of the highest opiate use rates in the country.
There are many names for prescription pain killers: Percocet, Vicodin, Oxycontin, Loratab, and Morphine. They're addictive and they can ruin lives.
“He was quite an athletic young man and he had no fear,” said the father of Denver Snarr ,Dan Snarr.
Denver got addicted and couldn't quit.
"Every morning when he walked out the door I said son just know your dad loves you”, said Snarr.
Denver tried to get help and his family tried to help him but on his 25th birthday in 2007 his dad found him dead.
“Sometimes I feel guilty, the fact that I could have done more”, said Snarr.
It was an addiction that changed their lives forever.
There isn't a day go by that I don't think about him”, said Snarr.
It's not only the Snarr family suffering. It's more of a problem in Utah that you might know.
“This is in our schools, it's in our churches, it's in our homes and kids are dying from it”, said Christina Nielson with the Odyssey House of Utah.
Unlike other states, opiates are the number one choice for 18 to 24 year olds in Utah.
In a recent Drug Enforcement Agency collection event, officials collected boxes and boxes of old prescription drugs. They got them out of the medicine cabinets and out of the reach of teens.
Christina Nielson says that’s a great service, especially considering the number of teens using rose last year.
“You take one, you take more and it progresses really quickly”, said Nielson.
It progresses to a cheaper, more available Opiate.
“We start with popping pills smoking pills, and then were off to heroin a lot of the time”, said Nielson.
The kids that are using aren't the ones you might think.
“It was kind of a little secret I had”, said teenage addict Chelsea Wiley.
Chelsea was the perfect student.
“I was captain of my sports teams, in honor classes, no one really knew I was doing drugs”, said Chelsea.
But by age 14 she was hooked on pills and looking for something better.
“I started using heroin to get the same feeling and the same high. It was stronger and cheaper”, said Chelsea.
It's easy to find. According to reports, Utah ranks among the highest in the country for Opiate use among teens.
“Heroin is just everywhere, every street corner you can find someone that can get it,” said Chelsea.
Now at the resident drug program Odyssey House in Salt Lake City, Chelsea explains it could be your child using and you wouldn't know.
“I know my parents never thought it would be me,” said Chelsea.
You wouldn't know until it's too late.
“A girl on the cheerleading team had an oxy overdose. That was the first person I knew to die”, said Chelsea.
Opiate drugs ruin every type of family, including Dan Snarr, who served for years as mayor of Murray.
“I think about him every day”, said Dan Snarr. “I put him to sleep and he never woke up.”
Now, he speaks out to help others realize that prescription drug abuse encompasses all races, religions, and economic classes and to stop another father from losing his son.
“You don't want anyone to go through the pain and sorrow of losing a child, its tough”, said Snarr.
Experts say there are some warning signs to look for if you think your child might be using.
Look for changes in their behavior like are they more closed off to you or family, or pay attention if who they are hanging out with suddenly changes, or if they are suffering from anxiety or depression.