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Education, treatment key to fentanyl epidemic

by Daily Inter Lake
| June 18, 2023 12:00 AM

Statistics accounting for Montana’s fentanyl crisis have reached staggering levels.

According to the state Attorney General’s office, Montana experienced an 11,000% increase in seizures of the illicit drug over the last four years, with three times the amount of fentanyl seized in 2022 as in 2021.

Let the reality of those astronomical figures sink in. No Montana community, large for small, is immune to this epidemic. And sadly, the deadly overdoses often associated with fentanyl are on the rise as well — nationally, a majority of drug overdoes can be attributed to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

In today’s front page story, a local mother courageously talks about her own daughter’s overdose death as a cautionary tale. 16-year-old Juniper Knapp, a former Glacier High School student, died last month due to an accidental overdose from a pill laced with fentanyl. Juniper’s mother, Julie, opened up about her daughter’s struggles with substance abuse, and the need to educate more people about the dangers of the drug.

“I just want to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else,” Julie said.

State lawmakers and local law enforcement groups have made recent strides in the frontline battle to keep fentanyl at bay. The Northwest Montana Drug Task Force seized some 40,000 pills containing fentanyl in 2022 alone. Meanwhile, Gov. Greg Gianforte signed into law local state Rep. Courtenay Sprunger’s legislation mandating more strict sentences for fentanyl traffickers.

These actions, among others, are an important part of the sweeping effort to stamp out this epidemic.

Yet, much more work remains in terms of prevention and education efforts — specifically, public service messaging about the proliferation of fentanyl, its alarming lethality and what to do if someone you know is struggling with substance abuse.

On that front, it’s time to shatter the stigma surrounding drug addiction. Open and honest discussions about the disease and putting a concerted effort into establishing facilities that are easily accessible to those in need are a must if Montana is serious about its fight against fentanyl.

As addiction therapist Tamara Nauts states, substance abuse is not about bad people, “It’s about a medical condition that requires attention.”

Let’s give drug addiction and the fentanyl crisis the attention it deserves with a multi-faceted approach focused on prevention, education and treatment — communities and families across Montana are depending on it.

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