Special Report: Prescription drug overdose deaths quadrupled since 1999 in Indiana

This drug accounts for more overdose deaths that cocaine or heroin – and it can be found in most medicine cabinets.

On Monday, Newscenter 16 told you about a new study that says the state of Indiana is not doing enough to curb prescription drug abuse. The Hoosier state is ranked 17th for most deaths due to overdose from prescription drugs.

Newscenter 16’s Gabby Gonzalez spoke to those who put the study together.

The Trust for America’s Health found that deaths from these overdoses quadrupled in Indiana since 1999. One of the big issues is that only a small number of people abusing these drugs actually get help.

Those facing addiction have a long road to recovery, starting with admitting they have an issue.

John Horsley, director of addiction services at Oaklawn, said he frequently hears addicts justify their need for prescription drugs.

“They say ‘my doctor gave this to me,’” Horsley said. “They ask ‘what am I going to do about my pain.’”

It sometimes takes a big scare to get someone into treatment.

“They come in after the overdose,”Horsley said. “They’ve been to the hospital and realize it is a problem.”

A single pill – meant to make you feel better – can send your health on a downward spiral.

“We see people who start out on prescription drugs then end up on heroin because it’s cheaper,” Horsley said.

Experts are now calling prescription drug addiction an epidemic.

“There’s probably a misimpression that if something is legal and can be prescribed, then it must be safe,” said Jeff Levi, executive director at Trust for America’s Health. “They are safe if used as prescribed, but not if abused.”

Many of these drugs can be found in the medicine cabinet. Young addicts often gain access to a prescription drug by looking through a loved one’s stored medicine.

“If you have prescription drugs in your home make sure they are locked away,” said Carol Thornton, president of the Safe States Alliance. “They need to be properly disposed of and not readily available in your home.”

These drugs do not have a particular target. There are people of all ages who become dependent on prescription drugs.

“Among the youth, they are being hospitalized for these overdoses,” Thornton said. “But they become more lethal as you get older. A middle-aged male is more likely to die.”

The total number of deaths is now at 16,000 per year nationwide.
“It’s a needless problem in the sense that we can avoid these deaths,” Levi said.

So, can the Hoosier state keep the abuse of these pills from causing more deaths?

The study found that Indiana only has five of the ten policies they outline to curb these habits.

Levi suggests using a prescription monitoring program, keeping track of pill mills and educating provides on how to manage these drugs.

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