- Associated Press - Friday, December 9, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A state official is crediting increased training and the use of overdose antidotes for the decline in deaths from heroin and pain-pill use in Iowa over the last two years.

A report released by the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy on Thursday showed that the number of pain-pill overdose deaths jumped from 11 in 2003 to 77 in 2013, but fell to 42 in 2014 and 43 last year.

The number of heroin overdose deaths quadrupled from five in 2009 to 20 in 2013, and then fell to 15 in 2015.

The report also showed that Iowa now has the second-lowest rate of illicit drug use in the nation.

Steve Lukan, director of the drug control policy office, said emergency medical responders and police officers have more training and experience in how to recognize and respond to overdoses, the Des Moines Register (https://dmreg.co/2hbeXNB ) reported. He said more first responders also carry antidotes like naloxone, which can counteract the effects of narcotic overdoses.



But he noted that the decline in overdose deaths doesn’t necessarily show that fewer Iowa residents are abusing opioids.

“Even though the deaths are down, the problem is still there,” said Edward Bottei, medical director of the Iowa Poison Control Center.

Nationally, heroin and pain-pill overdoses rose from last year, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Iowa recently announced that pharmacies would soon be able to sell the antidotes without a prescription to family and friends of drug users. Doctors are also increasingly limiting opioid prescriptions to patients who might abuse them, thanks to a state system that allows clinics to monitor whether patients requesting painkillers have already received them elsewhere.

Bottei said public education should continue to strengthen efforts to prevent abuse.

“We need to counter the perception that because it’s a prescription drug, it can’t hurt you,” he said. “We know from all these deaths that yes, it can hurt you.”

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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