Opioid Crisis in Iowa


Thought to be an issue only in major U.S. cities or more populated states, use of opioids (which includes heroin and prescription pain relievers) is becoming a problem of epidemic proportions in more rural areas of the country. While alcohol, marijuana and methamphetamines remain the primary substances misused in Iowa, in the last decade significant increases have been observed in the number of Iowans identifying opioids as their drug of choice at the time of admission to treatment – and in the number of overdose deaths.

Data collected by the Bureau of Substance Abuse show that treatment admissions related to opioid use have more than tripled since 2005. In addition, data from the Bureau of Health Statistics show that opioid overdose and related deaths have also tripled during the same time period (overdose meaning an opioid was identified as the primary cause of death in the medical examiner’s report; related meaning an opioid was referenced in the medical examiner’s report and could have contributed to the cause of death).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain relievers – enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills. Prescription opioid sales in the United States have increased by 300% since 1999, even though there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain Americans report. In a study by the International Narcotics Control Board, the United States accounts for nearly 100% of the Hydrocodone used globally and 81% of Oxycodone used.

As people use opioids continuously their tolerance increases, but they may be unable to maintain their original source for the medication. This can lead them to turn to other sources and even switch from prescription drugs to cheaper and riskier substitutes like heroin. While no cause and effect relationship has been proven, prescription use and its possible connection in developing a substance use disorder and overdose warrants continued monitoring.

Several options are available for effectively treating prescription and other opioid dependence. These options include a combination of counseling approaches and medications like Naltrexone, Methadone, and Buprenorphine. See YourLifeIowa.Org for more information and resources on opioid abuse and other addictions.


Source: Iowa Department of Public Health

By Jane Ernst, RN

Director of Adair County Public Health

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