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Arkansas overdoses from drugs laced with fentanyl on the rise

With the rise of drugs being laced with fentanyl, state officials say there were 618 overdose deaths in 2021 with about 65% of those being from illicit fentanyl.

ARKANSAS, USA — Drug addiction is a big problem nationwide and especially here in Arkansas. With the rise of drugs being laced with fentanyl, we are seeing an increase in overdose deaths. State officials say there were 618 overdose deaths in 2021 and about 65% of those were from illicit fentanyl either by itself or in combination with other drugs.

Kirk Lane is the director of the Arkansas opioid recovery partnership which is a partnership between the Arkansas Municipal League and the Arkansas Association of Counties. They are looking at programs to help combat the issue using money awarded to the state from opioid lawsuits. He says fentanyl has been a growing problem in our state since early 2016.

“In 2019, we saw a flood of illicit fentanyl come into the state at the same time as we were dealing with COVID19 which caused our overdose deaths to increase dramatically, some 43% in that first year,” he said.

Fentanyl is a synthetic drug that’s often mixed with other drugs because it is cheap to manufacture. A very small amount can be fatal. According to Lane, one gram of pure fentanyl can kill up to 500 people. It's about the same shape and size of what you'd find in a single Sweet 'N Lo package.

“Any drug use today could be your last because fentanyl is mixed into everything and so releasing that and applying it to critical decision making that somebody may be using is very important. I understand the drugs today are not what they were years ago,” he said.

Lane says the state has resources like the Narcansas app to help people find out where to get Narcan and learn how to use Narcan if someone were overdosing. Arkansas also has a growing recovery program. Jimmy McGill is the Director of Peer Recovery Services at DHS. He himself was a drug addict who has been in recovery for more than seven years. He says it’s hard for him to find words to describe the importance of peer recovery.

“The people who were once stigmatized and considered unreachable and unteachable now have a platform, now have a pathway, they now have a purpose and it’s a beautiful thing because Arkansas has grabbed that torch and we are leading the nation in that peer recovery movement,” he said.

DHS has three recovery community organizations in the state that are fully staffed to help anyone facing addiction. The one in our area is in Bentonville.

RELATED: Arkansas nonprofit urges the importance of carrying naloxone kits

RELATED: DEA recognizes National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day

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