DES MOINES, Iowa — Troubling data shows a resurgence of opioid deaths in America.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human services estimates 90,000 Americans died from drug overdoes in 2020, that's a 21 percent spike.
Iowa health leaders say it's too early to tell if the pandemic plays a direct role in the increase in drug overdose deaths, but they do say it could be a factor.
"The opioid epidemic has not left us, it's merely in the shadows of the pandemic," said director of the the Iowa Governors Office of Drug Control Policy, Dale Woolery.
Currently, they only have data from the first three quarters of 2020 and opioid overdose deaths in Iowa were up around 32 percent.
"The risk is there, the substances are there and the behavior certainly is possible and I think pandemic conditions we've been seeing over the last couple of months have the potential of exacerbating risk," Woolery said.
A risk that's been on an upward trend, even before the pandemic.
In 2019, the number of opioid related deaths jumped from 137 to 156.
Opioid initiative director for the Iowa Department of Public Health, Kevin Gabbert says that number is expected to grow in 2020 once the medical examiners reports are finalized.
"We haven't been considered a high prevalent state as what other states are but nonetheless opioids have still had an impact on Iowa," said Gabbert.
He says although we can't say COVID-19 is the direct cause of the increase, it has an impact.
"What we do know is that things like isolation play a role. You have individuals using substances without the benefit of someone being present and with opioids that's especially concerning because of the risk of respiratory depression and overdose," explained Gabbert.
Powerful synthetic opioids like fentanyl are now estimated to account for nearly 45 percent of all overdoses in the U.S.
"It's really a buyer-user beware because we have more combination in many cases more potent combinations. That too increases the risk of overdose among some of the users," said Woolery.
It's important to note if you or a loved one are experiencing drug dependence, you are not alone.
One organization that can help is Foundation 2 Crisis Services.
Program manger for the crisis center, Justin Reeg, says 2020 has been a tough year for everyone.
Foundation 2 Crisis Center assists the Iowa Department of Public Health with Your Life Iowa.
"For people who are finding themselves who need to reach out and that's why at all hours of the day this is why we have Your Life Iowa, the hotline where you can call to get assistance if you are in emotional distress or if you need general referrals for mental health services for drug and alcohol services as well," said Reeg.
You can reach Your Life Iowa at:
Call: (855) 581-8111
Text: (855) 895-8398