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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: 667262

Reported Deaths: 12737
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion913541660
Lake48729891
Allen36175646
Hamilton32489398
St. Joseph30361514
Elkhart25536420
Vanderburgh21343382
Tippecanoe20240205
Johnson16485363
Porter16077281
Hendricks15955302
Clark12079182
Madison11810323
Vigo11699234
Monroe10440164
Delaware9899179
LaPorte9838201
Howard9127203
Kosciusko8600111
Bartholomew7531147
Hancock7471134
Warrick7456153
Floyd7269173
Wayne6661192
Grant6465158
Boone618691
Morgan6135129
Dubois5942112
Dearborn551570
Cass5489100
Marshall5456105
Henry544395
Noble513878
Jackson465967
Shelby463591
Lawrence4197113
Gibson405585
Harrison404065
Clinton397653
Montgomery391984
DeKalb388278
Miami358463
Knox357886
Whitley352438
Huntington350877
Steuben340455
Putnam334660
Wabash333976
Ripley328062
Adams326349
Jasper319343
White298553
Jefferson296574
Daviess286196
Fayette272756
Decatur271688
Greene262680
Posey261732
Wells259175
Scott252150
LaGrange242670
Clay241644
Randolph226577
Spencer219630
Jennings216944
Washington213327
Sullivan203839
Fountain202842
Starke190051
Owen184254
Fulton179937
Jay178828
Carroll176919
Perry174136
Orange171451
Rush165722
Vermillion161543
Franklin160135
Tipton150041
Parke140216
Pike128633
Blackford120727
Pulaski107844
Newton96832
Brown95340
Crawford92613
Benton92513
Martin80314
Warren76014
Switzerland7568
Union67510
Ohio54211
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