Indiana Facing Record Number of Heroin Overdose Deaths
In Indiana, heroin drug overdose deaths, as well as prescription drug fatalities, have been steadily increasing over the last few years. Other nearby states in the rust belt, including Wisconsin, Illinois, and Ohio have seen similar effects. One person in the nation dies every 25 minutes from some type of opioid overdose. They now outnumber traffic-related fatalities.
Many believe this is the result of the prescription opioid boom which began in the 1990’s. Since that time, however, there has been crackdowns on the number of prescriptions and the duration of medication allowed. Many of those who became dependent on these highly addictive drugs turned to street drugs, such as heroin.
Statistics are Terrifying
An Indiana state report in 2013 revealed that since 1999, drug overdoses increased five-fold. Prescription opioid painkillers, such as OxyContin and Vicodin, represented 16% of the more than 1,000 overdose fatalities. Additionally, heroin overdose deaths increased nearly 2.5 times from 2011-2013.
And the drug has no boundaries in terms of gender, age, or socioeconomic status. In the past, it was a drug more commonly used by young people, especially men. Now, middle-aged women are among the hardest hit.
For example, Hamilton County, just outside of Indianapolis, leads the state in terms of wealth and median household income. However, it also ranks 9th in Indiana for the number of heroin overdose deaths, and 4th in opioid overdose fatalities. The county has, overall, incurred a 45% increase in heroin overdose deaths, which has prompted the release of the life-saving drug naloxone to deputies.
Narcan (naloxone) is a drug that is administered to someone who is having an opioid-related overdose, such as that of heroin or OxyContin. It blocks the effects of the drug, thus reversing overdoses and saving lives. Law enforcement agencies across the state are being armed with the drug. Last year in Indianapolis alone, EMS administered naloxone over a staggering 1200 times.
New Legislation Could Help
There is hope – a bipartisan bill is on the U.S. Senate floor, an amendment to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). It would result in federal funding to Kentucky and Indiana to help battle the opioid epidemic. It would also increase the availability of naloxone to those who overdose.
The amendment encourages law enforcement, emergency medical personnel, and other first-responders to direct patients treated with naloxone into substance abuse treatment and services. The bill also pledges support for education, prevention, treatment and recovery services.
CARA is an authorization bill which would provide up to $80 million in funding and support for education, prevention, treatment, and recovery. Among other initiatives, it would launch an evidence-based opioid treatment and interventions program, and enhance prescription drug monitoring programs.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology
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