PREVIEW: Painkiller Problems On The Reservation


Four South Dakota Native American tribes are now suing the makers and distributors of opioid prescription drugs, saying the epidemic in this country has disproportionately affected their people.

KELOLAND’s Angela Kennecke has been digging into the root of the problem on our state’s reservations and joins us now with a preview of the “Painkiller Problems on the Reservation.” 

Indian Health Services overprescribed opioids, like many other health systems across the nation. But the tribes claim far more opioids were prescribed to Native American communities than anywhere else in the U.S. In February 2018, the IHS released the revised agency policy on Chronic Pain Management, but the damage had already been done.

Native Americans make up only two percent of the population in this country, but they have the highest rate of opioid deaths out of any ethnicity. In fact, the rate of opioid deaths went up by five times in a 16-year period and one out of every 10 native American teenager uses prescription opioid drugs for recreational purposes. 

“The thing about pain pills is they see grandma with a prescription and she’s got pain pills her medicine cabinet and the grandchild has heard they can get high on that so they experiment with that and experience the euphoria of the narcotic and that’s where they start getting into trouble,” Addiction Counselor Ed Parsells said.   

Coming up Tuesday we look at the “Painkiller Problem” on the Rosebud Reservation and find out what the tribe is doing to try to help their people overcome these serious and often deadly addictions. Plus we share one tribal member’s story of how easy it is to become addicted to opioids and how it can happen to anyone. 

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