JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - As the opioid epidemic continues to grow across the country, Arkansas officials are working to help stop the deadly progression of addiction.
Out of the Dark hosted a meeting Tuesday morning. The two guest speakers were State Drug Director Kirk Lane and Dr. John Kirtley with the Arkansas Pharmacy Board.
Lane shared that drug overdose is now the leading cause of death in the United States.
One statistic he stated is that out of nearly 64,000 overdose deaths in the nation in 2016, 42,000 were attributed to opioids.
And of that number, 20,000 deaths were because of Fentanyl overdoses.
It's a newer and very powerful drug that Lane said agencies across the state are now on the lookout for.
"We're seeing illicit Fentanyl," Lane said. "We know that there are over 177,000 Fentanyl laboratories in China so a lot of that product is either coming through or trying to come through our trade routes, through our ports that are beefing up their security. But unfortunately, they are moving south to Mexico, coming up through those drug cartel trade routes and also down through Canada."
Law enforcement across the state are getting training on Fentanyl.
They have to be extra cautious because the drug can be absorbed through the skin.
Lane showed presentations on Fentanyl during the meeting, to point out that it is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.
He also discussed what healthcare providers and citizens in the community can do to support those facing addiction.
"It's absolutely here and it's here because we have such a high prescribing rate, we have such a high opioid-dependent population in Arkansas so it's a perfect storm," Lane said. "One of the biggest prevention programs we have is the drug take-back program, which is coming up April 28."
To find out where a 24-hour drug take-back box is or find a list of events happening on April 28, visit ARtakeback.org.