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Arkansas feeling impact of national record-high drug overdose deaths

In 2019, Arkansas' overdose deaths decreased by 17%. By 2020 when the pandemic struck, we had a 55% increase from the previous year, with trends still moving up.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — For the first time, America hits 100,000 drug overdose deaths in just one year.

It's a sobering reminder of how the COVID-19 pandemic has taken resources away from fighting the opioid epidemic.

Kyle Brewer knows first hand what drug addiction looks like.

"It's just a tragedy and it makes me wonder what we could do more," said Brewer.

He became addicted to oxycodone after wisdom tooth surgery, which led to heroin.

Now, he's clean and helping those who were in his shoes by becoming an addiction counselor and working part-time in an emergency room.

"Someone will share that they took one pill or one oxycodone or they did one line of meth or cocaine and overdosed," said Brewer. "Typically, using that amount of those won't lead to an overdose but what that tells me automatically is that was cut with fentanyl."

In 2019, Arkansas' overdose deaths decreased by 17%. By 2020 when the pandemic struck, we had a 55% increase from the previous year, and we continue to trend up.

"People are suffering from isolation or desperation and they're struggling financially or economically. Then, you have an uptick of substances, especially now that a lot of the substances are laced with illicit fentanyl," said Kirk Lane, State Drug Director.

But many Arkansans received lifesaving treatments. In 2019, 185 people were given Naloxone, also known as Narcan, to prevent an overdose death. In 2020, 391 were given. This year there's been 441 so far.

"Where our Naloxone program was and these other programs, if we didn't have these in place in 2020 I'm fearful what those numbers would have been," said Lane.

He expects our 2021 overdose deaths to increase from last year, but there is hope.

He said our treatment and recovery facilities have been growing significantly in Arkansas.

If you need help with addiction disorders, you can click here for resources.