Positive momentum showing in Indiana's fight against the opioid epidemic

A new report said Indiana's numbers are down more than 35% since 2013. Nationally, that average number is only at 33%.

Posted: Jun 19, 2019 10:49 PM
Updated: Jun 20, 2019 3:17 PM

INDIANA, (WLFI) - After years of a constant uphill battle against the opioid epidemic, Indiana is seeing some positive change. New numbers from the American Medical Association show Indiana's opioid prescription drug rates are going down faster than the national average.

The report said Indiana's numbers are down more than 35% since 2013. Nationally, that average number is only at 33%.

"It's a very exciting thing for me to see that Indiana has had a higher impact than the national average in the last few years," said Tricia Lohr, Pharmacy Manager at IU Health Frankfort. 

"Governor Holcomb called for an all hands on deck response to this," said Indiana's Drug Czar, Jim McClelland. His job is to lead the state against substance abuse. He was the first person appointed to this new position created by Governor Holcomb in 2017.

He said just in 2018, Indiana had a healthy decline in opioid prescription rates.

"In 2018 we saw a 12% decrease in the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed," he said. "We also saw a 23% decrease in the number of opioid pills dispensed, which means less of these pills are floating around."

Something that both Lohr and McClelland agreed is a big source of fuel to the flame that is the opioid epidemic. McClelland said doctors have gotten in the habit of prescribing too many opioid pills.

"A friend of mine had an 18-year-old daughter get her wisdom teeth out and the dentist routinely prescribed 30 pills," he said. "My friend said he thinks she only took two and she didn't need anymore."

It's those extra pills laying around that often times end up in the wrong hands.

"Just as a parent, the decrease in opiate prescribing to me is also very important," said Lohr. "A lot of kids that get started on drugs, the way they get it the first time is from a friend or a parent's medicine cabinet."

She said IU Health Frankfort has seen its own successful progress in reducing these numbers. The hospital has seen a 90% decrease in opioid prescriptions coming from their emergency room doctors.

"They're prescribing less and less for something like your wisdom teeth removal and other surgeries because they don't want people to have leftovers in their cabinets," she said.

McClelland said there have also been important legislation that has played a role in bringing down the opioid prescription rates. A bill signed into law by Governor Holcomb in 2017 limits first-time prescriptions of opioids to only seven days.  He said the Indiana State Health Department worked with the Indiana Hospital Association and the Indiana State Medical Association to create new guidelines for how to handle acute pain. Meaning doctors are now having patients try less risky ways of pain management.

"Anything from Ibuprofen, Tylenol, ice packs, hot pads, massages, acupuncture," said Lohr. "All are safer forms of handling acute pain."

Are patients upset that they aren't being prescribed something stronger?

"That was a worry when they were working on those guidelines," she said. "After they get the education of the risks of having the opiates in their house, they are more agreeable to not have them. People know it's safer to use other therapies initially."

Numbers show Indiana is making strides in other areas too. McClelland said the overdose death rate has been on the decline since 2017, but the war against opioids is far from over.

"Those numbers may be going down, but we still have to stay on this path," he said. "We've got some positive momentum now we have to keep building on that positive momentum."

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 947918

Reported Deaths: 15377
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1291181990
Lake635721103
Allen53899761
Hamilton44082449
St. Joseph42122590
Elkhart33803491
Vanderburgh30574449
Tippecanoe26915251
Johnson23727418
Hendricks22410342
Porter21832347
Clark17562231
Madison17492385
Vigo16302285
Monroe14545191
LaPorte14389239
Delaware14183222
Howard13971273
Kosciusko11498135
Hancock10935166
Warrick10737178
Bartholomew10635170
Floyd10514208
Wayne10077226
Grant9213204
Morgan8928160
Boone8463111
Dubois7791123
Dearborn769490
Henry7691133
Noble7466101
Marshall7409128
Cass7219118
Lawrence7026153
Shelby6647111
Jackson661386
Gibson6190107
Harrison609386
Huntington604495
Montgomery5853105
DeKalb581091
Knox5535104
Miami548888
Putnam543268
Clinton537465
Whitley529354
Steuben501768
Wabash488692
Jasper483861
Jefferson474492
Ripley457777
Adams446068
Daviess4231108
Scott409165
Clay394957
White393858
Greene393392
Wells389884
Decatur388797
Fayette378578
Posey362341
Jennings356056
Washington334747
LaGrange325175
Spencer321136
Fountain318455
Randolph317190
Sullivan309449
Owen287064
Starke282864
Fulton280454
Orange277859
Jay257038
Perry254152
Carroll245229
Franklin242838
Rush237030
Vermillion235050
Parke221420
Tipton212055
Pike211740
Blackford170534
Pulaski168551
Crawford147318
Newton145845
Benton143916
Brown135846
Martin130217
Switzerland126910
Warren115616
Union98511
Ohio80511
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