The Deadly Side of Prescription Drugs
Indiana 17th in nation in prescription drug overdoses
Saturday, October 19, 2013 11:00 AM
Prescription drug abuse and misuse is continuing to rise in Indiana and a new study shows the state is seeing an increase in fatal overdoses resulting from those drugs.
BY THE NUMBERS
14.4 - Number of prescription drug overdose deaths per every 100,000 people in Indiana. This number has quadrupled since 1999
11.8 - Number of motor vehicle deaths per every 100,000 people in Indiana
16 - Percent of Jefferson County deaths that involved prescription drug abuse from 2011 to 2013
$42 billion - The amount of money it is estimated prescription drugs cost employers in terms of lost productivity
2.3 - Number of criminal cases filed per week in Jefferson County for possession of or dealing prescription drugs
37 - Number of prescription pill overdose deaths in Jefferson County from 2008 to 2011
40 - Total number of overdose deaths in Jefferson County from 2008 to 2011
13 - Number of overdose victims who were 30 years old or younger
Indiana ranks 17th in the nation in prescription drug overdose deaths per every 100,000 people (14.4), according to a new study from the Trust for America's Health. That number has more than quadrupled since 1999, when the rate was 3.2 deaths per 100,000 people.
In that same span of time, only three other states have seen their rates quadruple: Kentucky, West Virginia and Iowa. Rates have doubled in 29 states and tripled in 10.
To put that into perspective: The numbers show that in Indiana, 934 people died of a prescription drug overdose in 2010. That same year, 765 people died from motor-vehicle related deaths. (The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute reported that in 2010 - the year this study focused on - there were no traffic fatalities that resulted because the driver had been using prescription drugs.)
The trend of overdose deaths being related specifically to prescription drugs can be seen at a local level.
According to the Jefferson County Coroner's Office, from January 2011 to October 2013, 16 percent of all deaths in the county involved prescription drug abuse or misuse. From 2008 to 2011, there were 40 reported overdoses from the coroner's office. Of those, only three were not related to prescription drugs.
"That's why we're taking a strong approach to this, because it's not really cocaine or methamphetamine that's killing people. It's the prescription drugs that are attributing to the deaths," Jefferson County Prosecutor Chad Lewis said.
In the past year - from October 2012 until this month - the Jefferson County Prosecutor's Office has filed 118 cases involving prescription drug abuse.
Of those, 84 cases were for possession of a controlled substance - an average of 1.6 cases every week. The other 34 were for dealing a controlled substance, which were charged on average once every 11 days.
Nationwide, the study estimates $2.2 billion is spent on criminal justice costs related to prescription drug use.
The biggest dollar amount can be attached to lost productivity, which is estimated at $42 billion. There is also an estimated $944 million spent due to medical complications from the drug abuse or misuse.
Ironically, one of the main drugs that is abused is methadone, a drug that is used to treat addictions. In one year, methadone constitutes 2 percent of all prescription drugs prescribed nationwide, but it accounts for 30 percent of all overdose deaths.
In Indiana, methadone accounts for between 8.6 and 11.4 percent of the total drugs prescribed.
Pills began making an appearance in the community mostly because they were relatively easy to obtain. According to the Trust for America's Health study, 55 percent of people who abuse painkillers got the pills for free from a family member or friend. Just 17 percent were prescribed by a doctor.
Lt. Det. Jonathon Simpson of the Madison Police Department, has been involved in a majority of the prescription drug investigations in the county. A big benefit for pill use is that people know exactly what they are getting, Simpson said, and the drug can't be cut with another substance.
The next step up from prescription drugs, Simpson said, is to heroin use. Drug users will become addicted and require more drugs to get high. Since heroin is significantly cheaper and much stronger than pills, it becomes a natural next step.
"If we could somehow tackle the addictions rather than arrest the dealers, that'd help out a lot," Simpson.
Simpson said he's already seeing an increase in heroin in the area and pills are not seen as often, but it's still considered a problem in the community.
"I still think we have a prescription drug problem. We're still focused on it. These pills are more dangerous than cocaine and methamphetamine and we're trying to take a serious approach and treat them seriously," Lewis said.
Some facts from the study about prescription drug abuse in America:
On average, 50 Americans die from prescription drug overdoses every day.
In 2010, enough prescription painkillers were prescribed to medicate every American adult for a month.
Currently, only one in 10 Americans with a substance abuse disorder receives treatment.
Prescription-drug related overdose deaths now outnumber overdose death from heroin and cocaine combined.
Men ages 25 to 54 have the highest numbers of prescription drug overdoses and are twice as likely to die from an overdose than women
People in rural counties are twice as likely to overdose on prescription drugs than people in bigger cities. In rural areas, 13 percent of teens use prescription drugs while that number is 10 percent in urban areas.
One in eight teens has reported taking an amphetamine such as Ritalin or Adderall. One in 12 high school seniors reported taking painkillers.
2.8 percent of 12-to-17-year olds have reported taking a painkiller in the past month.