Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States and opioid use is driving this epidemic. More than 42,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2016, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Arkansas, there were 379 drug overdose deaths in 2016, which increased to 411 drug overdose deaths in 2017. In nearly a decade (since 2000) deaths involving opioids has increased by 200% in the U.S.
On average, 188 Americans die every day from a drug overdose, and 40% of all opioid overdose deaths involved a prescription opioid.
Studies show that prescription opioids are also a significant contributor to the use of illicit drugs, including the spike in heroin use. The CDC states that, “94% of respondents in a 2014 survey of people in treatment for opioid addiction said they chose to use heroin because prescription opioids were ‘far more expensive and harder to obtain.'” The CDC further states that “4 in 5 new heroin users first misused prescription painkillers.”
Arkansas is also #2 in the nation for over-prescribing opioid medications at 114.6 opioid prescriptions per 100 people (the national average is 66.5 prescriptions per 100 people). There’s more prescriptions in Arkansas than people!
In a diligent effort to significantly reduce statistics – and most important, save lives – numerous programs have been enacted through multiple partnerships and multiple programs. The programs include, but they are not limited to, the biannual Arkansas Prescription Drug Take Back Day, Naloxone kit program, Arkansas Alcohol and Drug Abuse Coordinating Council, and Community Advisory Councils throughout the state, and an Education Portal for physicians, nurses and other medical professionals.