INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Indiana is seeing progress in the fight against the opioid epidemic. The Indiana Hospital Association says the number of prescriptions are dropping.
"According to the American Medical Association report, Indiana’s reduction in opioid prescriptions from 2013 to 2018 is 2 percentage points higher than the national average of 33%. The co-prescribing of naloxone and the number of physicians certified to provide office-based treatment of opioid use disorder using buprenorphine are also increasing," the association said in a press release.
This encouraging data means less prescriptions for people who have been dependent on opioids for years. One man who wished to remain anonymous spoke to FOX59 about his chronic back pain and how it took over his life for more than a decade. He’s now having to adjust in a major way.
“Several years ago, I was involved in a plane accident,” the man said.
After the accident, his doctor prescribed a common opioid that could help with this pain.
“It was like a miracle cure. It was called Oxycontin,” he said.
The "miracle" later turned into a nightmare. He says at first it worked great, but after a while his pain got worse and his doctor prescribed more Oxycontin. That happened four times.
Two months ago, his doctor decided to scale back. His doctor has begun reducing his dosage by 25 percent, until he’s off the drug for good.
“I was in panic mode,” he said.
The man said he was left with two options.
“Now I’m either going to have to go to the streets or go to the pain management clinic and I chose the latter,” he said.
Doctors across Indiana are cracking down on highly addictive painkillers and suggesting alternative options like, over-the-counter medications and non-drug treatments.
“They’re making us responsible for the welfare of that patient and after they leave the office,” said Dr. Amy Krambeck at IU Health.
Dr. Krambeck practices narcotic-free surgery. She says the CDC developed guidelines for prescribing opioids so doctors can keep an eye on dosages and follow-ups. Although it was a bit of an adjustment, she says it was necessary.
“We thought our goal was to lower pain as low as possible and to do that we needed to prescribe narcotics,” said Krambeck. “Now a days, fast forward 10 years, we have a massive narcotic epidemic. We’re realizing we need to re-think how we prescribe narcotics.”
Brian Tabor is the President of the Indiana Hospital Association. He says Indiana is moving in the right direction.
“We’ve seen a decrease of 35 percent in the number of opioid prescriptions over the last five years,” said Tabor. “At the Hospital Association we worked with our partners at the State Health Association and we developed guidelines for prescribing in emergency room settings, surgery, across the entire health care continuum. So, we were able to roll the best practices and guidelines out across the state from the north to the south and a lot of education. What are those best practices, what are the alternatives to prescribing opioids?”
Tabor credits policy makers, the Governor's office and the Indiana Generally Assembly for the progress. He also added the prescription drug monitoring system called INSPECT. In 2018, Governor Holcomb signed Senate Enrolled Act 221 into law, funding INSPECT and getting it incorporated into health facilities’ electronic medical records systems.
“The state has helped providers connect with that system to look at a patients history and be able to identify risks for addiction,” said Tabor.
Addicted for years, a life without Oxycontin seemed out of reach until his doctor changed his way of life.
“At first I didn’t understand it,” said the man. “If you’re one that has been bitten by this opioid thing, you can get past it. I have every intention of beating it and getting to where I don’t need any pain meds at all.”
In 2016, 1,518 Hoosiers died due to opioid-related drug overdoses. Indiana ranks 34th in the nation in drug deaths, according to the Indiana Hospital Association.
If you or someone you know needs help with addiction contact the 24/7 Indiana Addiction Hotline at 1 (800) 662-HELP (4357).