In Arkansas, we pride ourselves on the many natural treasures this state has to offer. Unfortunately, the Natural State has also been known for its drug problems. While there has long been a methamphetamine problem in the state, Arkansas has recently seen a rise in overdoses from opioid drugs such as heroin and fentanyl. Arkansas is now experiencing part of a national opioid epidemic. It’s becoming increasingly important that Arkansas citizens address the effects of the opioid epidemic and the rate at which it is causing deadly overdoses.
The increase in opioid-related deaths in the United States over recent years is quite alarming. According to the CDC, overdose deaths involving heroin “increased fivefold from 2010 to 2016.”
Another CDC report shows that between 2014 and 2016, Arkansas had the second highest opioid prescribing rate in the nation. As a result, there are more prescription opioid drugs in Arkansas homes, and instances of patients’ family members obtaining and abusing these drugs have become more common. Although many people are prescribed opioid pain medications by their physicians, these drugs are highly addictive and can be fatal if misused.
Further, the CDC has stated that those who have abused prescription opioid pain medications are at the highest risk of turning to heroin use. For those using heroin, there is now an added danger in the popularity of fentanyl, a synthetic drug that mimics the effects of heroin. Fentanyl is often much stronger than heroin or morphine (an opioid painkiller), making it highly dangerous. Because of fentanyl’s growing availability, it has become increasingly common for heroin dealers to supply unsuspecting users with the synthetic drug. Sadly, this trend has led to an increasing amount of overdose cases in Arkansas. Emergency responders have now seen many deaths resulting from users injecting a fatal amount of fentanyl, believing it was heroin. While heroin certainly can be deadly when overdosed, a fentanyl overdose causes respiratory failure much more rapidly.
In response to the shocking increase in overdose deaths from prescription opioids and heroin in the past few years, the Arkansas Attorney General’s office has implemented the Prescription for Life program. This program involves interactive education aimed at youths—primarily high school students—with the goal of curtailing the use of opioid drugs. Visit https://arkansasag.gov/programs/prescription-abuse/prescription-for-life/ to learn how to become involved.
If you, a family member, or anyone you know is suffering from heroin or other drug addiction, you can visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov for a map and list of treatment centers in Arkansas.