Lawmakers, law enforcement continue fight against opiod abuse

Lawmakers, law enforcement continue fight against opiod abuse

In 2016, there were 169 opioid-related overdose deaths in Arkansas. That is a rate of 5.9 deaths per 100,000 persons — compared to the national rate of 13.3 deaths per 100,000.

This is the latest statewide data available, but a recent warning from the CDC indicates opioid deaths are on the rise.

Synthetic opioid death rates doubled between 2015 and 2016. The CDC warning adds, “More than 55 percent of opioid overdose deaths occurring nationally in the 12 months ending November 2017 involved synthetic opioids, accounting for more than 27,000 overdose deaths.”

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. Fentanyl is a very powerful anesthetic. It is 30-50 times more potent than heroin and 50-100 times more potent than morphine. It is most often used with patients who are already taking other opioids to relieve chronic or breakthrough pain, such as the pain caused by cancer.

Recent data has also revealed that fentanyl and its analogs are increasingly becoming available on the illicit market mixed with non-opioid drugs, particularly cocaine.

The warning also encourages health departments to explore methods to rapidly identify overdose outbreaks. They are encouraging medical examiners and coroners to screen for fentanyl in suspected overdose cases. And law enforcement is advised to use extreme caution when handling suspected fentanyl, white powders and unknown substances.

The CDC is now telling health care providers that multiple dosages of naloxone may be needed for overdoses because of fentanyl’s increased potency.

Naloxone is a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose.

In the last regular session, we passed Act 284 which allows pharmacists to sell Naloxone to opioid addicts and those who might know someone at risk for overdose without a prescription.

For more information on how to administer Naloxone visit

From State Representative Deborah Ferguson