Hoosiers committed to addressing drug issues

Recently, a symposium focused on prescription drug abuse was conducted in Indianapolis to examine critical and emerging topics related to this public health and safety crisis.

The program was a statewide collaboration of industry professionals and leaders from public, private and nonprofit sectors. This type of cooperation is necessary in order to create impactful solutions to prevent prescription drug abuse. While our nation continues to explore how to most efficiently tackle this epidemic, Indiana leaders are taking this issue very seriously.

Prescription drug abuse is a problem found in all parts of the state among people of all ages, races, genders and incomes. In 2016, nearly 64,000 people in the United States died from drug overdoses, in which half were opioid related. In Indiana last year, drugs killed more than 1,300 people.

Medication assisted treatments are becoming an increasingly important tool in treating substance abuse. This type of treatment combines therapy with the use of medication to help individuals manage withdrawals and triggers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute on Drug Abuse and the World Health Organization have all accepted MATs as effective treatment options for substance abuse. While research also has confirmed MATs work, some people are still wary. The reluctance comes from the perception that MATs are simply swapping one substance for another. Ending this stigma may be the biggest obstacle.

In Indiana, Boone and Dearborn counties are addressing addiction in a different way by targeting those who are incarcerated. Many jails throughout the state are facing the issue of overcrowding. By shifting the focus from incarceration for nonviolent drug offenses to rehabilitation, communities can deal with both overcrowding and addiction.

The Dearborn County Jail Chemical Addiction Program fights addiction in our communities. Participants in the program stay for a minimum of 90 days in a designated location exclusively for them. Placing participants in a less hostile environment and away from potentially harmful influences helps keep them on the right path. The Boone County Jail has a similar program. Over the years, these programs have had great success saving lives, lowering recidivism rates, and improving the health of local communities.

To save more lives, the state has distributed multiple naloxone kits to community agencies, first responders and other health care providers. Naloxone, also called Narcan, can reverse opioid overdoses and revive people who otherwise may die without the immediate treatment.

But once people are saved, they need to take the next step to recovery.

Indiana recently launched Next Level Recovery, which is an online portal for all state resources addressing the opioid crisis. This site provides a comprehensive, community-based and proactive plan of attack against the epidemic.

At in.gov/recovery, those facing substance use disorders and their families can find resources about recovery without jumping from site to site. There is also data for health care professionals, emergency personnel, law enforcement and community leaders.

This problem will not disappear overnight. Drug addiction is a complex disease and often involves addressing a number of risk factors in communities and individuals, and there is no single perfect solution. Hoosiers are committed, however, to developing strategies to take on this issue and saving lives.

If you or someone you know is misusing prescription drugs, please remember that this should only be treated by a health care professional. To find a treatment facility near you, visit in.gov/fssa/dmha or call 1-800-662-HELP.

As always, contact me with any questions, comments or input you may have at 317-232-9648 or h73@iga.in.gov. I appreciate hearing from you in order to better represent our district. Stay up-to-date with the work being done at the Statehouse by signing up to receive my email updates at in.gov/h73.

State District 73 Rep. Steve Davisson, a pharmacist from Salem, represents Washington County, the western part of Brownstown Township along with Carr, Driftwood, Grassy Fork and Owen townships in Jackson County and parts of Orange, Lawrence, Clark and Harrison counties. Send comments to awoods@tribtown.com.