National increase in drug overdose deaths leads KDHE to educate residents about Naloxone

Published: Aug. 6, 2021 at 4:28 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A national increase in drug overdose deaths has prompted the KDHE to educate residents about how to use naloxone and where to get it.

In light of a national trend of fatal drug overdoses, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment says it encourages awareness and education about drug overdose prevention in Kansas, including awareness of treatment resources and access to naloxone.

“Fatal drug overdoses have increased steadily for decades in both the U.S. and Kansas and in 2020 there was an increase yet again,” Dr. Lee Norman, KDHE Secretary, said. “Beyond increased funding for mental health and substance use treatment, we must commit to working across all sectors - law enforcement, judicial, healthcare, religious, schools, and communities - to reverse this trend.”

Nationwide, the KDHE said between 2019 and 2020 there was a 30% increase in drug overdose fatalities with over 90,000 reported. Drug overdose fatalities increased in Kansas by 24%, from 393 to 477.

Of the 477 overdoses in 2020, the KDHE said 183 involved psychostimulants like methamphetamine, 161 involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl and 71 involved prescription opioids. It said overdose deaths that involved any prescription or illicit opioid accounted for 52% of all fatal overdoses in 2020. It should be noted that more than one drug can be involved in a fatal overdose, so these numbers are not mutually exclusive.

According to the KDHE, fatal drug overdoses were significantly higher in the male population. It said 63.9% of overdoses were male and 36.1% were female. Additionally, fatal overdoses were highest among those 25-54 and made up 296 of the overdose deaths or 62%.

The Department said Kansas is following similar overdose death trends nationally during the COVID-19 pandemic. Synthetic opioid overdoses, primarily caused by fentanyl, have driven this surge in overdose deaths. It said this is largely due to increased availability, accessibility and use of illegally manufactured fentanyl.

According to the KDHE, fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is mixed with other drugs, like heroin and cocaine, or used as a standalone drug. Due to its potency, it said fentanyl-involved overdoses happen fast and can be difficult to reverse. In Kansas, it said synthetic opioid overdose deaths, mostly caused by fentanyl, increased by 130% from 2019 to 2020.

“Substance use disorders (SUDs) are extremely complex and the reasons for the increase may depend upon the individual and their own determinants (biological, psychological, social, spiritual),” Dr. Norman said. “What we do know is that there is a need for more substance use disorder and Behavioral resources in our state.”

The KDHE said connecting residents with SUD services is the best way to prevent drug overdoses. Recovery from Substance Use Disorders is possible. It said those in need should call Kansas’ SUD hotline at 866-645-8216 or visit to find services.

The Department said it recommends that residents who use substances and their support networks have naloxone and be trained in the administration process. It said Naloxone is a medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. Kansas allows pharmacists to administer naloxone to patients without a prescription.

According to the KDHE, DCCCA Inc. has a naloxone program funded by the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services through the State Opioid Response grant. It said DCCCA has a limited supply of cits available for those who are unable to access it through a local pharmacy or other means. DCCCA also offers free naloxone training.

To find a naloxone distribution pharmacy, click HERE.

For more information about DCCCA, click HERE.

For help finding treatment, click HERE.

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