Iowa Opioid Deaths on the Rise, IDPH Reports


DES MOINES, Iowa — According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, opioid-related deaths have increased by 35 percent in 2020. Iowa’s surge mirrors national trends and has many local health experts on alert. 

The Iowa Department of Public Health reports that there were 211 opioid-related deaths last year, which is up 54 from 2019.

Public health officials said it’s unclear whether the pandemic is the entire cause for this increase. However, factors related to the pandemic likely contributed, including isolation and reduced access to health care services. 

Unity Point’s Powell Chemical Dependency Center has seen an increase in treatment seekers in just the last couple of months. 

According to a recent CDC report, nationwide synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, were the main cause of overdose deaths. The Manager of Powell Chemical Dependency Center, Amy Oehlert, said she believes one of the causes for the increase in opioid deaths in Iowa is due to people buying unfamiliar drugs on the street.

“You could be thinking that you’re getting methamphetamine and you may also actually be getting a whole host of other things mixed in with that,” Oehlert said.  “I think that’s what is probably contributing to some of the accidental overdoses is people think they’re getting one thing but they’re actually getting multiple things or something totally other than what they thought they were doing.” 

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