Juneau and Alaska as a whole have not been able to escape the nationwide opiate epidemic, and opiates appear to only be increasing their hold on Alaskans.
The age-adjusted rate of opioid deaths in Alaska is currently four times what it was in 2005, prompting Gov. Bill Walker to declare a public health disaster in February of this year. Seventy-four percent (95 of 128) of drug overdose deaths in Alaska in 2016 were due to opioid overdoses, according to preliminary statistics in the most recent State of Alaska Epidemiology Bulletin.
Juneau in particular has been hit hard. In 2015, there were 112 emergency room visits in Alaska due to heroin overdoses, and 10 of them were in Juneau, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. In the same year, 5 percent of the state’s prescription opioid emergency room visits (72 of 1,456) were in Juneau.
The country as a whole is facing an opioid crisis, and medical professionals are still seeking answers to the complex issue. There’s not one root cause for the epidemic, so there’s not one cure-all treatment that can work for every person working through recovery either.