Idaho works to reduce the concerning wave of fentanyl-related deaths

March 15, 2022
Kristen Raese, Drug overdose Prevention Program

Idaho is working to reduce a concerning increase in overdoses and overdose-related deaths. Fentanyl-related overdose deaths are on a dramatic rise in Idaho.

To help address the impacts of fentanyl, Gov. Brad Little is launching an initiative called Operation Esto Perpetua with the goal of reducing the flow of fentanyl and meth across Idaho. A citizen action group will begin bi-weekly meetings around the state starting this week.

Early data from DHW shows that 44 percent of overdose deaths in Idaho in 2021 involved synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, as compared to 21 percent in 2020, and 12 percent in 2019.

Between 2015 and 2021, the total number of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. doubled from just under 50,000 per year to almost 100,000 per year. Unintentional poisonings, including drug overdoses, is the leading cause of death in the United States for people up to age 44.

Fentanyl is an extremely potent narcotic that is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is involved in an increasing number of overdose deaths because of its strength and people taking it unknowingly.

Idaho law enforcement agencies have reported that counterfeit pills containing illicitly manufactured fentanyl are widely available to Idahoans through social media. This substance is increasingly being added to counterfeit pills  to make them cheaper and more potent.

Counterfeit pills containing fentanyl are often made to look like prescription opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and alprazolam, or stimulants such as Adderall. Fentanyl increases the potency of these drugs, which makes them more likely to lead to an overdose.

Learn more
  • The only safe medications are ones that come from licensed and accredited medical professionals.
  • Know the signs of an opioid overdose. Here are some things to look for:
    • Small, constricted “pinpoint pupils”
    • Falling asleep or losing consciousness
    • Slow, weak, or no breathing
    • Choking or gurgling sounds
    • Limp body
    • Cold and/or clammy skin
    • Discolored skin (especially lips and nails)
  • Learn what to do if someone is experiencing an overdose by visiting:
  • Naloxone, also known as Narcan and Kloxxado, is a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose and prevent death. Everyone, including family and friends, can ask for a prescription for naxloxone at their local pharmacy. If you have Medicaid, naloxone is covered.
  • Free naloxone is also available by calling or texting the Idaho Harm Reduction Project at 208-991-4574.
  • Organizations can request free naloxone kits and training through the Department of Health and Welfare:
  • See more drug overdose data through the Idaho drug overdose data dashboard:

Kristen Raese serves as a health program specialist for the Drug Overdose Prevention Program. She has worked for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare  since 2017. She holds a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center. .

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The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. Learn more at 

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