From: Sgt. Jay Frederick
Columbus Police Department, chairman of the Enforcement Committee for the attorney general’s Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force
The prescription drug abuse epidemic is out of control in America, and Indiana is right in the mix. As a local police officer and a member of the Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force, I have seen this problem grow exponentially, with more people becoming addicted to medically prescribed opiates and heroin. Indiana needs to adopt any measure that can help reverse this epidemic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 28,000 people died from overdoses in 2014, a higher number than any previous year. We’re suffering the unintended consequences of a 1990s movement that liberalized prescribing of opioid pain relievers like oxycodone and hydrocodone. As the opioid sales increased, so did the rates of death and addiction.
The death count may show the ultimate cost of the problem, but every Hoosier is impacted by the epidemic. Crimes like shoplifting and burglary are perpetrated to feed addiction and the drug economy, and Indiana remains a top state for pharmacy robberies.
Some measures have already been put in place. Indiana’s legislators passed laws expanding access to naloxone (known as Narcan), the opioid overdose antidote. Making naloxone available to all will slow the overdose death rate, but addicts must be connected with treatment. Drugs like the once-a-month injection naltrexone (Vivitrol) show promise for addiction treatment and can’t find their way on the black market as Suboxone and methadone do.
Another measure needing rapid adoption is the expanded use of abuse-deterrent opioids (ADOs). These pain pill formulations make it nearly impossible for addicts to convert the pill to powder form for snorting or injecting. Like other measures, ADOs are not a silver bullet, but one of many measures needed to bring the epidemic under control.
Most importantly, America must broaden its understanding of addiction, make treatment more accessible and invest in preventing youths from starting on this destructive path. The good news is there is a pathway out of this mess. Tune in to the issues and support leaders who are aggressive in changing the current course.