Attacking drugs on several fronts

Opioid addiction has been wreaking havoc throughout the state for several years.

For the first time in at least six years, drug overdose deaths in 2015 outnumbered murders and fatal auto crashes combined, driven by a dramatic increase in lethal overdoses linked to heroin and related opiate painkillers.

The good news is state and local governments have acknowledged the problem and are taking steps to try and solve it.

Last year Gov. Mike Pence created a statewide drug task force after the Hoosier state saw a tenfold increase in the number of deaths from heroin overdoses from 2005 to 2013.

The task force, created by executive order, will analyze current resources for treatment and best practices. The governor said his action was motivated in large part by a sharp increase in child abuse and neglect cases in Indiana, the majority of which involved substance abuse.

New guidelines have been issued that urge emergency room physicians to use caution when prescribing opioids for pain. Doctors now are being encouraged to request a patient’s medical and prescription records before deciding whether to give a new prescription.

Dr. Richard Feldman wrote about opioid addiction in May and how the new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are intended to prevent unintended addictions. Those steps include trying non-medication therapies, monitoring patients through drug screenings and review of prescription records, and prescribing non-opioid medications for chronic pain.

Now, a private Indiana company is joining the addiction battle too. Innovative Health Solutions, a Versailles-based company, has created a new device that can lessen the withdrawal symptoms for thousands going through detox as outpatients.

A report in the Indianapolis Star told of how the company has created the Neuro-Stim System Bridge, a device slightly larger than a half-dollar that fits behind the ear and sends electrical feedback to the brain, blocking the pain of detox. Described as groundbreaking, the device is worn by a person for five days, long enough to navigate through withdrawal before the addict turns to long-term treatment.

According to the report, 37 people have used the Bridge, and all have made it through the detox process.

It’s an encouraging sign and a potentially significant step forward, with no shortage of help needed from both the public and private sectors.

We can keep throwing people behind bars and writing ever-stricter drug laws. But that won’t solve the problem. We need to attack the source — addiction — and then help guide people to recovery.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to