Weather Alert

Number of opioid overdose deaths increases

Preliminary information from the Iowa Department of Public Health shows a 35% increase in opioid overdose deaths in 2020 when compared to 2019.

The director of the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy, Dale Woolery says the record 212 deaths come despite a lot of work on the issue.

“We would like to see the numbers go the other direction and they had for a couple of years. I think the moral of the story as we are looking at various sources of data on the opioid epidemic is that epidemic is still with us,” Woolery says.

Woolery says not all the trends in the fight have been negative. “We have made progress and we do have one of the lower rates of drug overdose deaths in the nation — and we don’t want to rest on that,” Woolery says. “Some of the progress includes ramping up access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction. There’s more access and use of naloxone –which is the opioid overdose reversal or rescue drug. There are fewer prescription opioids being prescribed, and the prescription monitoring program is being used more by health professionals to try and control for the prescription opioid outflow and misuse.”

Woolery says some of the other factors in the increase in death include the mixing of black-market fentanyl into heroin by drug dealers. “So as a user — if you think you are getting heroin or just a little bit of fentanyl, but instead you are getting pure fentanyl or something that is mostly fentanyl — that may not be what you thought. That could be one of the contributing factors to some of the opioid deaths,” he says.

Woolery says the pandemic and the isolation it brought on is also a factor. “It’s like a lot of other things with the pandemic — because of the increased isolation that has occurred — there is less opportunity to monitor behavior and to intervene when it is called for,” Woolery says.

The 212 overdose deaths broke the record of 206 deaths set in 2017.

Connect With Us