Stopping the epidemic of overdose deaths

Twenty-three Iowans died from prescription opioid overdoses in 2015, according to the Department of Public Health.

A report from the Trust for America’s Health tells us that prescription drug and heroin overdose deaths are climbing in Iowa, just as they are nationwide. In fact, the number of Iowa drug deaths—a majority related to prescription medications —has more than quadrupled in recent years.

We’re helping prevent these deaths by allowing Iowans to obtain medications that counteract drug overdoses. Iowans who’ve lost loved ones to a drug overdose—as well as those who’ve seen the life-saving results of Narcan—have fought for wider-spread use of the antidote here in Iowa.

We responded by making it possible for first responders, emergency medical service providers, police, firefighters and licensed health care professionals to maintain a supply of the opioid antagonist and administer it in cases of an overdose. A person in a position to assist — such as a family member, friend, caregiver or substance abuse facility — can also administer the emergency drug.

It’s one way we can prevent unnecessary tragedies and the heartache of Iowans who feel powerless to intervene when loved ones are in danger — and it gives individuals the chance to get help for their substance abuse issues.

In another effort to minimize prescription drug overdoses, the Iowa Pharmacy Board and Office of Drug Control Policy are setting up permanent Take Back kiosks at pharmacies and law enforcement centers in all Iowa counties.

The Take Back program is important because most abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends. Properly disposing of unused medicines can prevent abuse and save lives. To find the closest Take Back site, go to

In addition, a Prescription Pain Medications Study Committee will meet later this fall to evaluate the prescription pain medication crisis in Iowa and give us recommendations on how to tackle it. The committee will look at:

  • Trends in t prescription pain medications issued in Iowa
  • Deaths from prescription pain medication and illegal drugs
  • How the medical community is helping reduce drug dependency
  • Available treatment options and pain management programs