State, communities fight growing heroin epidemic

State, communities fight growing heroin epidemic

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Residents in this part of the state have an epidemic on their hands that has compromised social, judicial and health services.

Because of this, legislators have made changes and instituted programs to help keep Hoosiers alive and deal with issues that have arisen due to increased drug use.

Heroin can be snorted, injected or smoked. (Photo illustration by Linda Margison)
Heroin can be snorted, injected or smoked. (Photo illustration by Linda Margison)

The face on the state’s problem is heroin. The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes heroin as an opioid drug made from morphine and extracted from the opium poppy plant. It goes by many names — Big H, Black Tar, Chiva, Hell Dust, Horse, Negra, Smack and Thunder — and can be injected, snorted or smoked.

Overdose deaths in Indiana increased from three in 2003 to 152 in 2013, according to statistics released by the Indiana State Department of Health and reported in the Indianapolis Star. To combat the increase in drug-related deaths, Gov. Mike Pence formed a task force in September.

This action came after a new state law was passed allowing Indiana residents to get a prescription for the heroin-overdose antidote Naloxone, or Narcan, if they suspect a family member or friend may need it, according to a report by The bill was authored by Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, because of the rising number of overdose deaths in the state.

In addition to keeping drug users alive, the state has taken action to protect children and battle the increase in HIV diagnoses.

In August, Gov. Pence authorized the Department of Child Service to hire an additional 113 caseworkers to deal with the growing problem that compromises the state’s children, according to the Indianapolis Star.

WTHR-TV reported that in March alone, “Marion County saw 419 new cases of child abuse or neglect. Most of them, according to children advocates, were related to heroin.”

Gov. Mike Pence authorized a needle-exchange program to combat the spread of HIV among IV-drug users. (Photo illustration by Linda Margison)
Gov. Mike Pence authorized a needle-exchange program to combat the spread of HIV among IV-drug users. (Photo illustration by Linda Margison)

In May, Gov. Pence instituted a temporary needle exchange program to combat the rising report of HIV diagnoses in Scott County, prompting other counties to request the same allowance. As of April 21, the state health department diagnosed 135 people with HIV in Scott County, where the normal rate is five diagnoses a year, according to a report by the Center for Disease Control. Of that 135, the majority of people were linked to syringe-injected drug usage.

This is a problem that is getting national attention, too. President Barack Obama is pushing to improve doctor training and focus on drug treatment, rather than incarceration, according to the Associated Press and WTHR.

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