Opioid ‘progress’ is fiction, not fact

Keywords Opinion

A recent report card from the Indiana Commission to Combat Drug Abuse suggests the state is seeing progress in the fight against the opioid epidemic.

First published by IBJ [Opioid war rages on, but those on the front lines see progress, Nov. 23], the commission reported that Indiana saw a 10 percent drop in opioid painkillers prescribed during the first eight months of 2018; doses of naloxone administered by first responders in Marion County for drug overdoses fell 22 percent in the first 10 months of the year; and visits to emergency rooms for drug overdoses across the state were starting to dip.

Although the information presented is being reported by news outlets as true progress, the facts are misleading at best.

Even though Indiana has seen a 10 percent drop in opioid painkillers prescribed during the first eight months of 2018, it doesn’t take into consideration the number of drugs available on the black market. According to the Cato Institute, less than 25 percent of non-medical users of prescription opioids obtain them from a doctor. Three-quarters get them from a friend, relative or dealer.

The commission also “found a drop in emergency room visits for drug overdoses,” but doesn’t specify what (or how much) constitutes a “drop.”

This report card is missing an obvious statistic: deaths from opioid use or overdoses.

The most recent data don’t paint a picture of success: it’s quite the opposite.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1,840 people died of a drug overdose in Indiana in 2017, a 37 percent increase from 2015. In 2017, drug overdoses killed more than 70,000 Americans—a statistic higher than deaths from HIV, car crashes and gun violence at their peaks—an upward trend that corresponds strongly with a trend in the use of fentanyl.

Government-proposed regulation and “solutions,” like a state-appointed drug czar have historically done little to truly solve the opioid epidemic.

Indiana needs to rely on the facts to prove success in combating this epidemic instead of reporting “feelings” and half of the overall picture.

Chloe Anagnos, American Institute for Economic Research

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