Drug abuse in the country has led to hundreds of thousands of death across the nation over the past couple of decades, especially with drugs of abuse in Indiana. During this time, drug use and overdoses have increased significantly, mainly due to the rise of opioids and prescription painkillers.
Many states have been hit disproportionately by this scourge of prescription and illicit drugs. One state that has been feeling the impact of opioids, especially recently, is Indiana.
Indiana has seen its total drug overdoses increase substantially over the past two decades. From 1999 to 2017, the number of drug overdoses in the state increased from 184 to 1852, an increase of over 900 percent, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The problem is mainly fueled by the rise of prescription opioids but that doesn’t tell the full story.
Drug overdoses from every type of drug have increased astronomically during this period. While opioids are far and away the most deadly, the increases in the other types of drugs is worrisome and should be examined on their own.
Opioids are a class of drugs derived from opium and the poppy plant. It describes a wide number of drugs including most prescription painkillers on the market today including oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and more, as well as illicit drugs such as heroin.
Since the late 1990's, opioids have made a splash in the pharmaceutical sales market. This is in part due to the efforts of some pharmaceutical manufacturing companies to increase marketing of some of these drugs. In fact, some companies such as Purdue Pharma are facing thousands of lawsuits across the country due to their allegedly deceptive and aggressive marketing tactics of OxyContin.
Regardless, the opioid epidemic is in full bloom in the United States and is leading to tens of thousands of deaths across the country each year. In 2017 alone, there were more than 70,200 Americans that died from drug overdoses, of those, 47,600 of them involved opioids. This means that about 12,000 more Americans died of drug overdoses in 2017 than American soldiers who died in the Vietnam War.
In the United States, prescription pain relievers have become more prevalent and deadly over the past two decades. As mentioned before, there are a number of pharmaceutical companies that worked to market their drugs to the masses which may have contributed to what we are seeing today. Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, the most popular prescription drug in the country, made billions off of the sales of their drug.
According to data from the Indiana State Department of Health that tracked the drug overdose deaths of opioids and other drugs from 1999 to 2017, there were 933 drug overdoses that involved opioid pain relievers in 2017. This is a astounding increase from just 18 years before in 1999 when there were only 25 overdoses involving opioid pain relievers. The largest spikes in prescription painkiller deaths came in the past couple of years when it rose from 274 overdoses to the 2017 number in just two years.
Surprisingly, heroin is commonly overlooked when it comes to opioids due to the fact that prescription opioids are constantly in the news due to the lawsuits and drama that so closely follow pharmaceutical manufacturers. However, heroin was the original opioid scare in the country.
Most of us know what heroin is from movies or anti-drug classes from high school. And, while heroin does not cause as many deaths in the country as prescription opioids, heroin is becoming more prominent and we cannot ignore it.
One reason that heroin is getting more popular is because it is a cheaper and easier-to-obtain alternative compared to prescription opioids. So, if a prescription opioid patient begins to build a dependence to these drugs, they may turn to heroin to satisfy their cravings when they run out of refills or are low on money. The numbers back this up.
In Indiana, heroin overdose deaths rose from just 3 in 1999 to 327 in 2017, an unbelievable increase of 10,800 percent. As prescription opioids became more popular, so has heroin.
Heroin is an incredibly addictive and deadly substance, if the opioid crisis is not handled properly, it could lead to more and more Americans dying not just from these prescription pills, but illicit drugs like heroin as well.
Benzodiazepines is a class of central nervous depressant drugs that produce sedation, induce sleep, relieve an anxiety, and prevent seizures. Some commonly prescribed benzodiazepines include Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium.
Benzodiazepines have a number of effects on the body including feelings of calmness and euphoria, disturbing dreams, amnesia, irritability, hostility and more. Benzodiazepines, when taken in excess or improperly, can lead to fatal overdoses. Common signs of overdoses from this class of drug include shallow respiration, clammy skin, dilated pupils, weak and rapid pulse, coma, and more.
While opioids rule the prescription drug world today, there was a time when benzodiazepines were once the most prescribed drugs in the world. While they are not as prevalent as they once were, they are still important to pay attention to as they lead to thousands of deaths across the country each year.
In 2017 in Indiana, benzodiazepines were a factor in 308 drug overdoses. While this pales in comparison to opioid pain relievers, it is comparable to the impact that heroin has had on the state.
As the name suggests, stimulants will work to speed up the body’s system and produce a sense of exhilaration, enhanced self-esteem, increased activity and physical performance. There are a number of different types of stimulants, common ones include methamphetamine and cocaine.
Besides these stimulating effects, psychostimulants also have harmful and problematic physical side effects such as dizziness, tremors, headaches, flushed skin, chest pains, excessive sweating, vomiting, and more.
Like other substances mentioned there is abuse potential and fatal overdose risks when it comes to using this class of drugs. Commonly, high fever, convulsions, cardiovascular collapse are common overdose signs that may precede death. Accidental death from stimulants commonly occurs due to the drug’s effect on the body’s cardiovascular and temperature-regulating systems.
Cocaine is one of the most commonly used stimulants in the country and led to over 13,000 deaths in 2017.
Cocaine is an intense, euphoria-producing stimulant drug that according to the Drug Enforcement Agency has “strong addictive potential”. The drug is derived from coca leaves that are grown in South American countries such as Peru and Colombia.
In Indiana, psychostimulants overall lead to the death of 538 residents in 2017. Of those, 249 of them were from cocaine specifically. Again, the drug has seen a massive increase in overdose deaths over the past two decades, in 1999, there were just 27 overdoses attributed to the drug.
Alcohol is one of the most widely used drugs across the country and is also one of the most deadly. Alcohol often is ignored due to its legality. With that said, it actually leads to more deaths than all illicit and prescription drugs combined.
According to data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there are an estimated 88,000 alcohol-related deaths each year.
More specifically, in Indiana, between 2006 and 2010, there were an average of 1,646 deaths each year due to excessive alcohol use in Indiana.
Drinking too much over time or all on one occasion can lead to serious, disastrous consequences for your health and can affect a number of body systems and organs. Drinking in excess can lead to major effects on the heart, liver, pancreas, and greatly increase a person’s risk of being diagnosed with cancer.
Alcohol-related liver damages is one of the most common and deadly effects of that alcohol can have on the body. In the advanced forms of the disease it can lead to alcoholic cirrhosis and cause the internal structure of the liver to become damaged and distorted. This leads to thousands of deaths around the country each year.
What Indiana Is Doing
Indiana has passed a number of legislative measures and has many requirements in place in order to curb or stop excessive and abusive prescription use.
According to the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency, a prescription for a controlled substance must only be issued for legitimate medical purposes. Ultimately, the responsibility for the prescribing is up to the prescribing practitioner.
Indiana law also requires that prescriptions for schedule II substances must be filled within one year of being signed. Meanwhile Schedule III, IV, and V controlled substances shall be rilled or refilled within six months of the day on which the prescriptions was issued. Similarly, no prescription should be authorized to be refilled more than five times.
The Indiana Board of Pharmacy Prescription Monitoring Program has a program in place called INSPECT. He program develops a report that looks into and summarizes the controlled substances a patient has been prescribed, the practitioner who prescribed them and the dispensing pharmacy where the patient obtained them.
Essentially, this report was made to increase transparency and accountability on the prescription drugs that are being prescribed in the state. It was designed to serve as a tool that addresses the problem of prescription drug abuse and diversion in Indiana and perform two major functions:
- Maintain a database for patient information for health care professionals.
- Provide an investigative tool for law enforcement
In early 2004, grant funding and an act in the state legislature helped create the present-day INSPECT program. The program requires 24-hour reporting, and provides real-time data to practitioners. The program is funded at the state level by controlled substance licensing fees.
Along with local state law, there have been federal measures that have been passed in the recent past to address the opioid crisis that is affecting the country. In fact, President Trump acknowledged the “terrible crises of opioid and drug addiction” in his second State of the Union address in 2018.
In late 2018, Congress and the president passed a law called the SUPPORT (Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment) for Patients and Communities Act. It was an uncharacteristic showing of mass bipartisan support, receiving less than 20 “No” votes.
The new piece of legislation uses grant money to address the growing opioid problem. Some major issues that the bill hopes to deal with including:
- Increased monitoring and detection of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids
- Prevent addiction for susceptible seniors.
- Increased access to Medicaid funding for substance abuse treatment
- Help pregnant women and new mothers receive treatment for opioid use disorder
- Expand oversight of opioid prescriptions and payments
While there is a lot to do to solve this problem, this law is a good first step. The bill is an ambitious effort by both parties to try to stop or at least slow down the opioid issue that affects more than two million people around the country.
The drug epidemic in the country is reaching catastrophic levels and while there have been efforts to improve the drugs of abuse in Indiana, it will take time to see actual progress. Use of drugs like opioids, stimulants, benzodiazepines, and more are leading to more and more overdose deaths across the nation and in specific states, such as Indiana.
As the country continues to be affected by these drugs and more people become dependent upon them, there have been widespread efforts to make treatment more accessible. If you or a loved one is in need of treatment due to drug or alcohol abuse, Landmark Recovery is one treatment center that can help. At Landmark we can offer patients access to an evidence-based and individualized care program. If you are interested in learning more, please visit our website and reach out to our admissions team today.