U.S. down, Kansas up in number of drug overdose deaths last year

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TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The number of people dying from drug overdoses is going up in Kansas.

There were 341 reported drug overdose deaths in Kansas last year. That’s up 5% from 2017.

The Centers for Disease Control shows the national average of drug overdose deaths fell 4%, but Kansas is one of 18 states heading in the wrong direction.

“We get people that have had serious additions, serious brushes with death, regarding their drug of choice,” said Nancy Lollman, executive director at New Dawn Wellness and Recovery Center in Topeka.

She’s seen people with various drug addictions from a 13-year-old to senior citizens.

“We talk about the consequences of drug use, and of course death is a consequence of drug use,” said Lollman.

Kansas police are also trying to stop the problem.

“We’ve encountered people with substance abuse problems daily,” said Topeka Police Lieutenant Andrew Beightel.

“We do stress to them because we do want to make sure they’re safe, again it’s a tragedy when anybody loses their life, we stress to them that that is a real-world possibility if they continue in this type of environment,” he said.

Lollman said people can die when they don’t know what exactly they’re taking.

“They’re being laced with other drugs like Fentanyl,” she said. “Fentanyl is a very potent pharmaceutical, and people can very easily die from Fentanyl if they don’t know they’re taking it.”

Searching for help was said to always be the best option for people struggling with drug use.

“It’s a community effort. Substance abuse is a huge problem for people if they have it, so if they have a good core of people around them that can help them through this type of situation, that’s great,” said Beightel.

The total number of reported deaths nationwide was more than 67,000.

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