Opioid addiction is a staggering problem in Indiana, affecting 1 in 20 Hoosiers or nearly 300,000 people. The IndyStar is partnering with the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation on a yearlong reporting series to raise awareness of the opioid epidemic.
It is considered by many to be the single most important crisis facing the state of Indiana.
And for good reason.
Opioid addiction is a public health catastrophe. More than 1 in 20 people in Indiana — that’s a staggering 286,000 Hoosiers — report having engaged in nonmedical use of opioid pain relievers. Even worse, the number of Hoosiers who have died from drug poisoning has increased 500 percent since 1999. More people now die in Indiana from drug poisoning than in car accidents.
That said, discussing the problem merely in terms of public health does an injustice to just how pervasive and acute this problem is in our state.
Those in public safety — from emergency responders to police officers to public defenders and prosecutors — see precious time and resources sucked up by the epidemic. Employers see a vicious cycle in which they lose employees to addiction and then struggle to refill those positions because not enough would-be workers can pass drug tests. And the already overburdened foster care and child welfare systems are now further taxed by the ever-increasing number of children whose parents are either addicted, locked up or dead.
It is a massive problem — one that will require the efforts and attention of Hoosiers from virtually all walks of life and all corners of the state to solve.