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ND overdose death rates rival national numbers; addiction specialists, hospital, and law enforcement work to address issue


BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) – What may have started as a prescription for many, is a growing problem across the country. Every day, people buy what they think is heroin and get something 25 to 50 times stronger. They’re rapidly dying from drug overdoses. The U.S. set a record for drug overdose deaths with more than 107,000 fatalities last year, according to new data released by the CDC. That’s a 15% increase from 2020 and a nearly 50% increase from 2019. The data reveals that about two-thirds of those deaths involved synthetic opioids, like fentanyl.

In North Dakota, 118 people suffered drug-related deaths in 2020 — the most seen in a decade, and in 2021, the preliminary data suggests the numbers are growing. In Bismarck in 2021, 19 people died from overdoses and police responded to many more overdose calls. In the field, they say they’re using more Narcan than ever before. At the hospital, some overdose patients are treated with reversal agents, and others find themselves on a ventilator.

“We’re saving their lives with Narcan and getting them into the ER, but they are also in acute withdrawal. And without any services, they walk out of that emergency room, and they are going to go use,” said Kurt Snyder, executive director at Heartview Foundation in an interview earlier this spring.

Bismarck police have partnered with Heartview Foundation and Sanford Health Emergency Medical Professionals to connect opioid users with medication-assisted treatment and recovery support services after they are released from the emergency room. They hope to bridge the gap in treatment and break the cycle of addiction. Addiction specialists say recovery is possible with proper treatment. If you suspect someone is experiencing an overdose, police urge residents to immediately call 911.

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