Other States are combating the Opioid Crisis, but why are Kansas and Missouri falling behind?


Shai-El Luger

In Kansas and Missouri opioid overdose death rates are rising while nationally they are declining. Since 2012, more than 1,500 Kansas citizens have died from opioid or heroin overdoses, and that number is increasing by the day. The state of Kansas has received around $30 million in federal grant funding that supports awareness, prevention, education, and treatments to try and help fight the people who have been affected by the opioid crisis.

Opioids are prescribed medicine that are used as painkillers, and sometimes for anestesia. Opioids are also used often for non-medical reasons to prevent withdrawal and for their euphoric effects. Although there are many good uses for opioids, many people are abusing the drug.

There were  35 overdose deaths involving opioids in the year 2000 in Kansas, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The death toll rose to 159 in 2016. Image from Wikipedia

Nationally, in 2018 drug related deaths declined by 5 percent, but unfortunately, overdose deaths in Kansas and Missouri still have not decreased. In fact, opioid overdose deaths in Kansas are increasing. In addition, more than 1,100 of Missouri’s overdose death included opioids, and half of them occurred in St. Louis. The Douglas County Citizens Committee on Alcoholism (DCCCA) is holding their third annual Kansas opioid conference, where people attend to learn about the opioid crisis going on in Kansas and Missouri and what they can do to help stop it. There are a number of speakers attending who will speak on the matter of the opioid crisis, and they will teach about prevention, treatment, and recovery. The opioid crisis is affecting countless people, and the opioid conference is there so people can understand what it is, and how they can help people that have been hurt by it.

 Randall Williams, the director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said in an interview with The Kansas City Star, “What we are dealing with in Missouri is an increased presence of (highly concentrated opioids like) fentanyl and carfentanil which presents an even greater risk for opioid overdose. We will continue to concentrate on upstream approaches toward prevention of opioid misuse while simultaneously instituting new measures that will prevent fentanyl overdoses.” 

Williams has also signed an order to increase the amount of naloxone that Missouri can access. Naxolane is a rescue drug that can help stop opioid overdoses, and it does that by blocking opiate receptors in the nervous system. Opiate receptors are nerves in our brains that process pain. Naxolane can quickly restore normal respiration to a person whose breathing slowed or stopped because of abusing opioids.

Naloxone is not a controlled substance, so there’s no chance of it being abused. Additionally, the drug naloxone is available over the counter in the state of Missouri. Image from Wikipedia

Overall, in Kansas and Missouri, the overdose deaths from Opioids are much higher than in other states, and unlike other states, Kansas and Missouri aren’t showing any progress towards lowering the death rate. Many organizations have been established to help victims of opioid overdose, and many more have stopped people from being exposed to opioids in the first place.