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K-State Research and Extension

Preventing opioid misuse through education 


What we are doing 

Think of it – approximately 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, and more are at risk. Many were initially prescribed opioids as a pain management tool. K-State Research and Extension is educating Kansans about the risks linked to opioids. 

Opioids are a class of drugs that include powerful legal prescription pain relievers that can be an important part of medical treatment, but which carry the risk of addiction and overdose. The illegal drug heroin is also an opioid. According to the Centers for Disease Control, from 1999 to 2015, the amount of prescription opioids dispensed in the United States nearly quadrupled, yet there has been no verifiable change in the amount of pain Americans report. Many are not aware that prescribed medication for knee or back pain is a highly addictive opioid. Kansas ranked No. 18 in the U.S., with 2,579,058 opioid prescriptions dispensed in 2017. That amounted to 88.5 prescriptions per 100 Kansans, compared with the national average of 66.5 per 100 people.  

Our impact 

Tara Solomon-Smith and Rebecca McFarland are working with Erin Yelland, assistant professor and extension specialist in adult development and aging, to make Kansans aware of what opioids are and the risks of addiction and overdose. Yelland has written a new fact sheet, “The Opioid Crisis: What You Need to Know,” and has been speaking on the topic in Kansas and at national conferences.  

Solomon-Smith, a family and consumer sciences agent in the Wildcat District, recently was asked by a large company in Labette County to make presentations about opioids to all 115 of its employees. She has written articles on the topic and has been contacted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to explore an educational collaboration about substance abuse in southeast Kansas.  

McFarland, a family and consumer sciences agent in the Frontier District, helped plan the May 2 East Central Kansas Active Aging Expo in Ottawa. She invited a local pharmacist, the Franklin County Sheriff, and the Ottawa Chief of Police to participate in a panel discussion on what they’ve seen locally related to opioids, plus had a display on the topic at the expo. She’s also written about the threat of opioid misuse for The Golden Years, the East Central Kansas Area Agency on Aging’s quarterly publication.  


To learn more, download the informational packet from the K-State Research and Extension Bookstore.  



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“Without a doubt, Kansas has been adversely affected by the opioid epidemic. Although we are not experiencing as many deaths due to heroin as in other states, instead we are flooded with an exorbitantly high number of prescription opioids.” 

– Erin Yelland, assistant professor and extension specialist in adult development and aging