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STATE OF AFFAIRS: Iowa Sees 762 Drug Overdose ER Visits

44 Deaths from Opioid Overdose


DES MOINES, Iowa – With the Iowa caucuses just weeks away, Presidential hopefuls are converging on the Hawkeye state while poll numbers are watched closely with anticipation. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Ripley’s Believe It or Not calls Snake Alley in Burlington the most crooked street in the world. After all, if anyone knows crooked, it’s a politician right? But one thing we do know is that mental health care reform and working to fight America’s drug epidemic is a bipartisan effort. We’ve seen both sets of hands reaching across the political aisle in an effort to discuss what needs to be done.


What many don’t know is that in 2013, Iowa saw 762 drug overdose emergency room visits and 44 deaths from opioid overdose, compared with 36 in 2012 and 10 in 2005. 44 deaths is about 1.4 per 100,000. Over the past 20 years, drug overdose has become the leading cause of injury and death in the United States.


Nearly 7000 people are treated in emergency rooms each day for drug abuse, and over 100 of those die. The highest percentage of those misusing prescription painkillers like Oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine and codeine are people between the ages of 18 to 25.


The state health department received a grant back in October from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for $3 million to help fund decreasing substance abuse, and expand the state’s medication assisted treatment services.


“These grants are in line with the President’s call to bring wider attention to the nation’s prescription drug and heroin use problems,” says Iowa Department of Public Health Behavioral Health Division Director Kathy Stone.


Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medications in 2012. That’s enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills. Four out of 5 heroin users say they started out by abusing prescription drugs.


Iowans admitted for treatment with an opiate as their primary drug of choice grew from 677 people in 2007 to 1707 in 2012. That’s a 152% increase. 33 people died in the state last year. 19 of those overdoses were heroin-related. Experts say Iowa’s location in regards to drug trafficking plays a part.


“We are at a crossroads of Interstate 35 and Interstate 80,” Executive Director of United Community Services in Des Moines Mike Polich told the Newton Daily News. “There’s lots of product out there on the streets, and it’s cheaper than trying to buy the pharmaceuticals.”


Alcohol sales were up in Iowa 5% this year in Iowa, with a steady increase in recent years. More than $277 million was spent on liquor, with beer and wine bringing in over $22 million in revenue for the state.


Cerro Gordo County purchased the second most gallons of alcohol per capita, with more than 3.5 gallons for each adult over 21.


The state appears to be doing what it can to put that revenue back into treating people. More than $20 million in revenue is expected to go towards substance abuse programs in the state, according to KIMT.


As the nation prepares for the Iowa caucuses in one of the most controversial elections in its history, one thing is for certain: the surviving candidates have their work cut out for them, in Iowa, and in a nation that’s desperate for help.

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