(KARK) It has been ten years since Gary Speed got the call every parent dreads. His son Albert, a high school senior on his way to Columbia University, was dead.
“He took some methadone and Xanax and overdosed,” he said.
Since then, opiate overdose deaths across the country have continued to rise. During a hearing on Monday, officials at UAMS and the state Department of Health told lawmakers opiate overdose deaths per 100,000 Arkansans remained relatively level from 2008 to 2013.
But that’s still more than 100 people every year.
“I think we do have a problem in Arkansas,” said Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, R-Rogers.
During the hearing, lawmakers were provided map showing per capita oxycodone prescriptions in Arkansas with hot spots in Perry and Conway Counties in central Arkansas, as well as several counties in the northwest part of the state.
Among the solutions discussed during the hearing were making better use of information collected in the state’s prescription drug monitoring database and limiting the number of opiate pills doctors are able to prescribe at a time.
Officials say the state also needs to increase drug treatment options for those struggling with prescription drug abuse.
After his son died, Speed went back to school and got a degree in nursing. In addition to his job as an attorney, he now works three nights a week in the emergency room where he sees first hand the problems Arkansas continues to face.
“More opioids are used in the United States than any other country in the world,” he said.