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Dr. Shaun Kondamuri, of Midwest International Spine Specialists, talked at a pain-management seminar Wednesday in Munster about the country's opiate crisis, which has even affected many celebrities.

The facts are staggering.

With less than 5 percent of the world's population, the U.S. consumes more than 80 percent of the opioid painkillers on Earth. Roughly 65,000 babies are born in America every year addicted to opioids, a number that's more than tripled over the past decade.

More people now die from drug overdoses in Indiana than motor vehicle accidents.

A Northwest Indiana doctor laid out these statistics at a pain-management seminar last week in Munster. He hoped to warn his fellow medical professionals -- and everyone else -- about the scourge of opioid abuse that is taking lives, filling emergency rooms and landing doctors in jail.

"The public needs to be more aware of this," said Dr. Shaun Kondamuri, a pain specialist with Munster-based Midwest Interventional Spine Specialists. "Patients are getting on higher and higher doses of opioids, and it's disturbing to us."

His practice has seen an influx of opioid-dependent clients since a 2013 emergency rule by the state medical licensing board requiring many such Hoosiers to be seen by specialists. But many of those clients have no medical reason for their pain, he said, meaning they were either prescribed the drugs unnecessarily, or are abusing or selling them.

He noted that after authorities cracked down on OxyContin a few years back, many painkiller addicts in Northwest Indiana and elsewhere switched to Opana, a pill known on the street as "The O Bomb" or "New Blues" that can crushed, then snorted or injected.

Its abuse in southern Indiana's Scott County led to widespread needle-sharing and the largest HIV outbreak in state history earlier this year.

Kondamuri blamed the opioid epidemic on pain becoming the "fifth vital sign," as well as aggressive -- and sometimes criminal -- marketing on behalf of pharmaceutical companies. It's also simple economics; there's a lot of money to be made from selling the pills on the streets.

It's not only patients peddling the drugs for cash, but also doctors. That's where Drew Adams comes in.

The Indiana deputy attorney general works to bust "pill mills," or physician offices that often exist simply to feed addicts prescription painkillers.

He spoke at Wednesday's seminar of patients lining up outside the practices awaiting their fixes, "doctor's offices" without medical records or equipment, and physicians trading medications for sex.

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In one case, he said, over a four-year period a doctor and nurse practitioner wrote approximately 103,000 prescriptions for controlled substances and had more than 40 patients die from overdoses.

But it's not just doctors scamming the system who run afoul of the law. He talked about interviewing a physician who was suspected of operating a pill mill.

When Adams asked him what he was thinking, the doctor reportedly told him he "just couldn't say no."

"You're going to be lied to, you're going to be scammed, you're going to be manipulated. But you have to say no," Adams told the assembled physicians, pharmacists and worker's compensation case managers Wednesday.

"At worst, you'll see me with my windbreaker with 'drug cop' on the back. At best, you'll have to talk to the medical board."

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Health Reporter

Giles is the health reporter for The Times, covering the business of health care as well as consumer and public health. He previously wrote about health for the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.