GARY | Prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions throughout the U.S. and deaths from accidental prescription drug overdoses now surpass deaths from auto accidents.
In 2011, 718 Hoosiers died from accidental drug overdoses, compared with 654 deaths the year before. Nationwide, someone dies from a prescription drug overdose every 25 minutes.
On Thursday, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller presented those statistics about the abuse of prescription drugs during a stop at Gary City Hall to unveil a new website to help Hoosiers understand the problem and combat it.
That information, including how to recognize the signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse and where to find help, are now just a click away at www.BitterPill.IN.gov, Zoeller said.
Zoeller and the Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force teamed up to launch the website. It’s armed with a tool kit of resources for Hoosiers and is part of a comprehensive statewide public awareness campaign targeting what the attorney general called “Indiana’s prescription drug epidemic.”
He said “a fairly aggressive campaign” of online, print, TV and radio public service announcements also will accompany next week's website launch.
Zoeller said Hoosiers can watch the TV spots before they air Monday by visiting the attorney general’s YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.come/user/INAttorneyGeneral.
“The public has the idea that prescription drugs are safe. That is an attitude that needs to change,” he said.
Direct marketing of prescription drugs to the public through advertising on TV and print media also instills the idea that “No pain or ailment is tolerable. There has to be a pill for it.”
The drugs most often abused with the most serious consequences include painkillers such as oxycodone and other opiate-based drugs, Zoeller said. There’s been a spike in the use and deaths from heroin because people can’t afford the prescriptions anymore and turn to the cheaper street drug.
A fatal combination of prescriptions with alcohol is part of that epidemic that Zoeller said, “has hit Indiana hard, particularly in the rural areas.”
He said the largest group of prescription drug abusers are women older than 40. Senior citizens are becoming addicted, too, because of long-term use of opiates.
“One in five teenagers have admitted abusing prescription drugs they find around the house,” Zoeller said. “On college campuses, students are turning to prescription drugs to study long hours rather than drink coffee.”
New medical rules may soon be coming out regarding the use of painkillers. Those directions will exclude the more short-term use of painkillers for those with terminal illnesses, he said.