DES MOINES- In recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day, the Iowa Attorney General’s office is sharing tips with families to recognize the signs of drug usage and the actions the office is taking to prevent overdose deaths.
In Iowa, drug overdose deaths have increased annually over the past couple years, jumping from 350 in 2019 to 470 in 2021. That is over a 34% increase. Nationally, more Americans have died in the opioid crisis than World Wars I and II combined, and the problem has only gotten worse. Attorney General Bird partnered with Governor Kim Reynolds on legislation this year to combat the drug epidemic by increasing penalties for drug dealers who distribute a drug that causes death.
“As a mom, I know there is nothing more important than keeping our kids safe,” said Attorney General Bird. “And as a prosecutor, there is nothing harder than looking a parent in the eye and telling them that the law does not provide them the justice they deserve. With this new fentanyl law the Governor and I worked on, we will seek justice for victims and ensure drug dealers go to prison when they give someone a drug that kills them.”
Fentanyl overdose is the leading cause of death among young adults ages 18 to 45. Often, drug dealers connect with teens and young adults through social media platforms such as Snapchat and TikTok, and they market to kids by disguising harmful substances like fentanyl as candies.
“All it takes is one pill to kill,” said Attorney General Bird. “As parents, we need to keep an eye on our kids by monitoring their social media usage, watching out for behavioral changes, checking for hidden drug devices, and arming them with information. Unless you take a drug prescribed to you by a doctor and dispensed by a pharmacist, you never know what you’ll get. There is no safe amount of an illegal drug.”
Attorney General Bird has also joined legal actions against Mexican drug cartels and President Biden’s open borders and catch-and-release policies to prevent the influx of drugs crossing the U.S. southern border. In 2022, the DEA seized enough deadly doses of fentanyl to kill every citizen in the United States. Since 2020, over 3.1 million pounds of illegal drugs have been confiscated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“We have a serious crisis on our southern border, and it’s affecting us here at home,” said Attorney General Bird. “We are pushing back against Mexican drug cartels and open borders policies that have allowed lethal drugs to flow across our southern border and into Iowa communities.”
Prescription opioids have also posed a threat across the state and country. Nine out of ten surgical patients are prescribed opioid medications, and every year, more than 3 billion opioid pills are left over after surgery nationwide. Attorney General Bird has partnered with 14 hospitals across the state to cut that number down and keep unnecessary opioids out of the hands of families and communities. A single prescription fill in a household increases the risk of opioid overdose to the family by 60%, and two fills within 6 months increases the risk by over 625%.
“Oftentimes, what starts as a prescription becomes an addiction," said Attorney General Bird. "That’s why we’re fighting to stop the addiction before it ever starts. These are good people who get hooked on opioids after a surgery, and then it spirals into something worse. It is so important that we continue working to reduce opioid prescription fills and properly dispose of leftover pills. It affects entire families."
To safely dispose of leftover prescription pills, Iowans can take them to a drug take back location, such as a local law enforcement agency or pharmacy. Click here to find a drug take back location near you.
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Alyssa Brouillet | Press Secretary