More than one million Hoosiers over the age of 12 – that's one-fifth of the state's population – admit to abusing prescription drugs at least once in their lives. This statistic, reported by the Indiana University Center for Health Policy, is certainly a cause for concern. In fact, more people abuse prescription drugs than cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens and inhalants combined.
Commonly abused prescription drugs include opioids like hydrocodone, anti-depressants and stimulants such as Adderall. Though these drugs have vital medical uses, when used in excess or unnecessarily, they can lead to addiction, deadly overdose and are a serious threat to public health. Every 25 minutes someone in the U.S. dies of a prescription drug overdose.
State and local leaders are working to reverse this chilling trend by providing more oversight for certain prescription drug prescribers and increasing awareness about the dangers of nonmedical prescription drug use.
One strategy is to curb the irresponsible and vast overprescribing of prescription pain killers in our state. According to the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency, from 2007 to 2012, the number of oxycodone doses dispensed in Indiana nearly doubled, and the number of hydrocodone doses increased by 23 percent.
To address this alarming rise in prescribing, the Indiana General Assembly passed Senate Enrolled Act 246 this year requiring the Medical Licensing Board to create statewide standards for the safe and medically appropriate prescribing of controlled substances.
The new law also requires all facilities that prescribe pain medication to maintain a controlled substance registration, and gives the Indiana Attorney General more tools to investigate clinics suspected of overprescribing prescription pain killers.
While these are important steps at the state level, reducing prescription drug abuse – especially among teens – requires significant effort on behalf of families and community members locally.
Because certain types of prescription drugs are so often prescribed and readily available, it can be fairly easy for young people to get their hands on them. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 70 percent of children 12 and older say they got prescription drugs from a friend or relative.
It's up to Hoosier parents to recognize these risks, talk to their family members about the dangers of using prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons, and safely dispose of any excess substances. Take old or unused medications to advertised community events, such as Take Back Days, Shred Days, or Household Hazardous Waste Days. The Fort Wayne Police Department, Allen County Sheriff's Department and the local Indiana State Police Post also take in unused prescription drugs.
Finally, it's vital all of us be on the look-out for prescription drug abuse in our families and neighborhoods. Attorney General Greg Zoeller and the Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force recently released an online guide, BitterPill.IN.Gov, offering facts, warning signs and resources for prescription drug addiction.
If you know someone struggling with prescription drug abuse, please seek help now. Call 1-800-662-HELP for advice on local addiction facilities and programs. Together, we can reduce prescription drug abuse and prevent more Hoosier lives from being lost to this deadly epidemic.