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January 20, 2022

Attorney General Miller highlights dangers of fentanyl

Increased use of fentanyl in Iowa an ‘enormous disaster’ among opioid crisis  

DES MOINES — Attorney General Tom Miller provided an update on the opioid epidemic on Thursday, including a look at the increased use of fentanyl.  

The AG’s office has worked to address the opioid crisis in the state for the past five years, challenging and suing manufacturers and distributors. The office has focused on prevention, including the over-prescription of opioids that caused this crisis, and treatment, specifically on MAT or Medication for Addiction Treatment.

“Despite this work, we have seen the deaths from fentanyl rush to the front of the United States and Iowa,” Miller said during a news conference on Thursday. “The deaths we’ve seen have been heartbreaking. The pain and suffering of people who are addicted and their families and friends, is enormous.”  

Recently released statistics by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concerning overdose deaths was “shocking,” Miller said.  

“We take a temporary time out to tell the public about this enormous disaster, while we continue to work on these opioid issues,” Miller said.  

Joining Miller during a news conference on Thursday to discuss the concerning rise in fentanyl-related overdoses were acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa Rich Westphal, Dr. Gerard Clancy, MD, a professor of psychiatry and Senior Associate Dean for External Affairs at UI Carver College of Medicine, and Dr. Alison Lynch, MD, professor of psychiatry and family medicine, and director of the opioid addiction clinic at UI Hospitals & Clinics.  

Key Takeaways:  

  • According to the CDC, from April 2020 to April 2021, more than 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses, nearly 64,000 related to fentanyl. In 2011, fentanyl accounted for just 2,000 deaths. 

  • The Iowa Department of Public Health estimates that fentanyl deaths rose from 31% of all overdoses in 2016 to 87% in 2021. 

  • Fentanyl contamination of other drugs — including heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine — is increasing the risk of overdoses.  

  • Dr. Lynch notes that it is much more difficult to resuscitate someone who has ingested fentanyl, necessitating multiple doses of medication such as naloxone.  The drug can also complicate treatment. 

  • Acting U.S. Attorney Westphal noted a glut of fentanyl, including counterfeit pills that can contain a lethal dose of the drug.  He noted that federal authorities are focused on disrupting the supply of fentanyl, including charges against 27 people in July 2021.  

  • In September 2021, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency released a public safety alert regarding the sharp increase in fake prescription pills that include fentanyl.  

  • Nationally, more than 9.5 million counterfeit pills were seized in the first nine months of 2021.  

  • The number of seized counterfeit pills including at least two milligrams (considered a lethal dose) of fentanyl jumped nearly 430% since 2019, according to DEA.  

A copy of today’s news conference can be accessed online.  

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