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Experts host public panel as fentanyl deaths have 'doubled' in Idaho

A panel of Twin Falls experts host public event and information session on drug, fentanyl, as study shows 43% of Idaho overdose deaths in 2021 were fentanyl-related.

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — In 2021, 353 Idahoans died from a drug overdose; and 152 of those overdose deaths were 'fentanyl specifically reported.' 

According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (DHW), the number of drug overdose deaths (which includes all drugs, both opioids and non-opioids) in 2021 increased by 23% from just one year prior.

DHW warns that the uptick in overdose deaths is in part due to the rapid rise in popularity of the pain medication, fentanyl. 

Data collected by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare's Drug Overdose Prevention Program found that from 2021 to 2022, fentanyl-related overdose deaths in Idaho nearly doubled.

The DHW report concluded that fentanyl was involved in 21% of overdose deaths in Idaho 2020. In 2021, fentanyl-related overdose deaths jumped to 43%.

Fentanyl Panel & Information Session:

In an effort to address the growing problem, Idaho's South Central Public Health District (SCPHD) office announced Monday that it will be hosting a community panel and information session in Twin Falls on Tuesday to raise fentanyl awareness.

May 9 is National Fentanyl Awareness Day, an annual national day of observance to raise awareness about the abuse and misuse of fentanyl.

"One of the best ways to prevent drug-related deaths and addiction is education," said Taylor Bybee, SCPHD health education specialist. 

The public is invited to join local experts in a community forum to inform and discuss the basics of fentanyl.

"Empowering ourselves with the information we need to avoid substance use, or treat it in a healthy and sustainable way, gives our entire community more time to fight back and prevent drug-related deaths," said Bybee.

In the session, attendees will learn of fentanyl basics, the use of naloxone to reverse overdoses, addiction treatments and preventing the use of illegal substances. Questions from community members for the expert panel are encouraged.

The panel will include officials from health district office, Twin Falls County Sheriff's office, the Walker Center, the Twin Falls County Coroner's office and the Twin Falls County Prosecuting office.

Event Details: 

  • When: Tuesday, May 9 at 6:30 p.m. 
  • Where: College of Southern Idaho, Twin Falls campus
    315 Falls Ave, Twin Falls, ID 83301
    CSI Taylor Building, room 277 
  • Who: Open to the public, community members. The session is appropriate for teenagers and adults.
  • What: Information session and discussion forum to educate the community about the basics of fentanyl.

About Fentanyl:

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, that can be prescribed by a physician to serve as a pain medication. It is significantly stronger (est. 100 times stronger) than morphine and an estimated 50 times stronger than heroin.

"Fentanyl is growing in popularity because it's relatively cheap and very strong. It's also deadly in extremely small doses so mixed drugs become much more dangerous," said Eli Thompson, a health education specialist with SCPHD.

Fentanyl is legal through a prescription from a physician. However, illegal use and distribution of the drug has grown exponentially in recent years.

"Illicit drugs don't come with an ingredient list, so Fentanyl can be snuck into virtually anything without the buyer knowing," said Thompson. 

The drug is commonly laced (mixed) into other substances, such as illegally produced counterfeit prescription pills, oxycodone, heroin, and increasingly, in non-opioids like cocaine and various illicit drugs. 

According to Idaho State Police (ISP), meth continues to be the most commonly seized controlled substance. ISP data found that out of 10,333 controlled substances tested in an ISP forensics lab in 2021, 41% tested positive for meth and 6.24% tested positive for fentanyl.

Over a 3-year period, illegal possession of fentanyl in Idaho has rapidly trended upward. Percentage of controlled substance cases with at least one item to test positive for fentanyl:

  • 2019: 0.41%
  • 2020: 1.42%
  • 2021: 6.24%

In addition to educating the public about fentanyl to combat fentanyl use, DHW offers free naloxone, otherwise referred to by the brand name, Narcan. The medication, naloxone, is used as an emergency treatment of a suspected opioid overdose.

Learn more about opioid overdoses and fentanyl use on Idaho's Public Health District website.

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