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Arkansas drug officials send warning as fentanyl overdoses spike nationally

As drug overdoses impact the country, drug officials in Arkansas are keeping an eye on what trends in neighboring states could indicate about the Natural State.

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration issued a warning after seeing a nationwide spike in fentanyl-related mass overdoses. Officials characterize it as three or more overdoses happening at the same location over a small span of time. 

The crisis is having an impact all around the country as Florida, Texas, Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri, and Washington D.C. were highlighted as having the most overdoses in recent months. 

With this mind, the state is now exercising caution. The state is on alert after seeing the warning and are keeping an eye on what neighboring states could indicate about Arkansas.

"A lot of times Arkansas are behind the trends, and what we're seeing in other states will slowly leak into Arkansas so I think we're fearful of what we're seeing in those other states," said Kirk Lane, Arkansas State Drug Director.

Kirk said that overdoses in Arkansas have steadily increased over the last two years with fentanyl being the leading cause, which is notorious for being one of the deadliest drug trends. 

It's a collective effort for many around the state, as Arkansas drug officials aren't the only ones who are on alert-- organizations, tailored to helping curb drug addiction, are working to help too. 

Together Arkansas is one of those groups. The organization is a collaborative effort between the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and AFMC to provide employers with a free toolkit of resources they can use to help those needing treatment, along with their families. 

"The main thing is getting them to people who know how to deal with this issue. Medical professionals, mental health professionals. People who can help them," said Randy Zook with the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce.

This isn't something that's just being tackled by professionals either. Arya Mack-Gilson isn't a medical or mental health professional, but he is someone who knows all too well about the opioid crisis. 

"I would know because I'm a recovering addict and I used IV fentanyl," said Mack-Gilson.

He's with the Central Arkansas Hard Reduction Project, and said it's mostly fentanyl users who reach out to their organization for help. 

His organization offers lifesaving naloxone kits that feature two syringes and two vials of the medicine that can stop an active overdose.

Mack-Gilson said fentanyl can be so strong sometimes that it could take two kits to get someone out of an overdose.

Since starting the organization, Mack-Gilson said there's times he'll deliver their kits personally.

"It varies a little bit week to week, but I would say that we're probably serving 50 to 100 people every week," said Mack-Gilson.  

If you need naloxone or other resources you can text (501) 438-9158.


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