America’s opioid epidemic continues to worsen, and is spreading rapidly across the country. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50, the majority of which come from heroin and other opioids.
While Iowa’s prescription drug abuse rate is lower than the US average, opioid abuse is one of the fasting growing forms of substance abuse in the state. Treatment admissions and overdose deaths related to opioids and heroin have increased significantly over the last decade. According to data from the Iowa Dept. of Public Health, opioid treatment admissions increased from 608 in 2005 to 2,274 in 2016, opioid overdose deaths increased from 28 in 2005 to 86 in 2016, and opioid related deaths increased from 59 in 2005 to 180 in 2016.
Two years ago, in an effort to begin combatting this problem, we created a new law to increase access to opioid antagonists. Opioid Antagonists, like Narcan, can temporarily block overdose effects allowing more time to seek life-saving medical treatment.
This year, we granted Medical Examiners access to the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) and allowed Iowa to work with other states and share PMP information.
Additionally, the House passed legislation requiring pharmacists to make daily updates to the PMP and requiring prescribers to register, in an effort to encourage its usage and ensure the most up-to-date information. While these items didn’t become law, they will continue to be a part of the broader conversation next year.
Last week, the Legislative Council approved an interim subcommittee for the purpose of evaluating the opioid epidemic in Iowa. The committee’s charge is to receive input from stakeholders including government agencies, regulators, public safety, medical professionals, and others to review protocols and practices relating to the prescribing of opioid medications and the treatment options available. The committee will submit recommendations to the Governor and Legislature prior to the beginning of the next legislative session.
I look forward to seeing the recommendations of the study committee and continuing to make progress in helping Iowans battling with addiction. If you have comments on this or any other issue, please contact me.