‘We suspect that people don’t realize they are getting fentanyl’ - Siouxland authorities and medical professionals discuss overdoses in the community

Published: Nov. 17, 2021 at 5:57 PM CST
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SIOUX CITY (KTIV) - The number of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. has hit an all-time high. Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate overdose deaths surpassed 100,00 from May 2020 to April 2021.

This is the first time the figure has topped 100,000 and is up 29% from the previous 12-month period.

States across the country are seeing much higher figures for overdose deaths, and here in Siouxland, we’re seeing an increase as well.

The Sioux City Police Department has seen four overdose deaths since the beginning of 2021, which is higher than in years past. Three of those deaths were due to a fentanyl overdose.

“We have seen it laced in some other drugs, and have seen it in pill form, that has popped up lately, where it looks like other pills and drugs, like oxy, and such. So, we are seeing it creep in that way. We suspect that people don’t realize they are getting fentanyl. It is extremely potent, it is extremely dangerous, and it is hard to detect because they are slipping it into other things that is why it is so alarming,” said Sgt. Jeremy McClure, with the Sioux City Police Department.

McClure says most overdose cases are due to methylphenidate and fentanyl. And, that if you witness someone overdosing or misusing a drug, you are protected by Iowa law and should call 911 for help immediately. Although there have been only four reported overdose deaths reported in Sioux City this year, McClure says there have been several other overdose cases where they were able to revive the individual.

A local pharmacy in Sioux City is being proactive to make sure its patients have access to medications that can prevent an overdose with opioid medications.

Drilling Pharmacy is hoping to prepare patients by arming them with information on safe ways to consume prescription opioids, how to dispose of them and what to do if someone does experience an accidental overdose.

“For any controlled substance you have to have a written prescription if it is a controlled two-substance, like your hydrocodone and your oxycodone,” said Sarah Sorensen, a pharmacist at Drilling Pharmacy.

One of the biggest risks of taking opioid medications is the chance of an overdose.

“The Iowa Department of Public Health is being very proactive with giving pharmacies the tools to curve overdoses, and give people multiple ways to dispose their medications,” said Sorensen.

One of the ways Drilling Pharmacy is trying to ease the opioid crisis is by offering a green Med Drop Box inside the pharmacy where patients can dispose of their prescription medications safely. And, you don’t have to be a patient to have access to the dropbox.

“Iowa Department of Public Health also just came out with a ‘dispose RX program.’ So what we are trying to do, is any patient who is on a short-term opioid, they might not use it all after surgery. And if you don’t want to make the extra trip to the pharmacy to drop it off in the green box when dispensing one of these, what they do is they dump the powder into the prescription bottle, fill it with water, shake it up, then they can throw it in the trash can,” said Sorensen.

Apart from preventing overdoses, the pharmacy is also educating patients on ways to treat an overdose. One drug that can help is Naloxone. And you may not have to go to your doctor to get a prescription for it.

“Iowa Board of Pharmacy came out with a state-wide protocol. That pharmacists that complete continuing education, pertaining to Naloxone, can dispense Naloxone as the prescriber,” said Sorensen.

Sorensen says to not feel embarrassed, and if you or someone you know is at risk of an overdose, speak with your pharmacist or family physician about getting a Naloxone prescription because it can save lives.

Sorensen said to not feel embarrassed, and if you or someone you know is at risk of an overdose, speak with your pharmacist or family physician about getting a Naloxone prescription because it can save lives.

IDPH has a grant program to help people pay for Naloxone, who are specifically at risk of an overdose. You can find out more about that grant here.

Copyright 2021 KTIV. The Associated Press contributed to this article. All rights reserved.