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The midwestern state of Indiana is most often referred to as the "Hoosier State," but is also sometimes called the "Crossroads of America," since it's squeezed in between Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, and Michigan. Its renowned for its gorgeous fall colors, passionate sports (the country's first professional baseball game was played in Fort Wayne, Indiana on May 4, 1871) and of course, cornfields! Sadly though, in recent times it's become known for something far more sinister-a growing alcohol and drug addiction crisis.
Since Indiana boasts a relatively comfortable average annual income level of $71,912, one might easily think that it had been spared the wave of drug addiction effecting poorer states, but this definitely isn't the case. Drug overdoses in Indiana have nearly doubled since 2010, growing from 923 to 1,809 in 2017, and Indiana's drug-induced mortality rate quadrupled between 2000 and 2014. Taking a narrower look--roughly 4,000 Hoosiers have died from just opioids alone over the last decade, and statistically more Indiana residents now die from drug overdoses than from car crashes. Despite being well-off in terms of resources, Indiana drug and alcohol abuse continues to rise.
When we look at the relationship between addiction and economics, we quickly realize that it's complicated. Drug and alcohol abuse affects the entire country, and no state in the US has been spared. Nationwide, over 60,000 overdoses occurred in 2016, with almost 175 people dying every day. Drug overdoses kill more people annually than suicides, homicides, car accidents and guns, and these numbers increase every year. And, although poorer people are statistically more likely to struggle with drug or alcohol abuse, correlation is not causation. This doesn't necessarily mean that people that are more well-off economically are less likely to become addicted. In fact in some cases, wealthy people can be thrown into poverty as a direct result of addiction. Someone who is solidly middle class can fall into poverty if their addiction leads to poor work performance and job loss. And, if someone has been fired from an old job, it can become a great deal harder to get a new one. It's a vicious downward spiral.
Much like the rest of the United States, opioid addiction has moved across Indiana like a cyclone, laying waste to whole communities, and decimating families. In 2018, the Hoosier State had 1,104 drug overdose deaths involving opioids—a rate of 17.5. Opioid addiction is particularly menacing because, due to the highly addictive nature of the drugs, it can sneak up on people, even when they think they're being vigilant.
Prescription painkillers (like Vicodin, Oxycontin, and Percocet) are so highly addictive, in large part, because they involve the pleasure centers of the human brain. They trigger the release of endorphins, which mask or interrupt pain perception, while also boosting intense feelings of pleasure and happiness. This creates a short-lasting but extremely powerful sense of well-being. And, when an opioid starts to wear off, it's only human to crave the return of that wonderful sense that everything is perfect and as it should be. This is the first step on the path toward addiction, and it can happen even to people who think they're being careful.
The root of the opioid problem stems from doctors over-prescribing these highly addictive pills when, in many cases, lesser drugs like Tylenol, Excedrin or Advil will do. Opioids may seem safe because a doctor prescribes them, but just one or two of few these prescription pain pills can get people hooked and send them off on a path to full-on dependency. In 2018, doctors in Indiana wrote 65.8 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people! And, recent studies of Indiana youth show that 5% of young people (ages 12-17) report using pain relievers in a way not directed by a doctor in the past year. This is particularly concerning because we know how incredibly addictive these drugs are.
Unfortunately, abusing prescription painkillers can lead to using even more dangerous substances. Federal and state regulations now try to control and limit the prescribing of opioids, which has caused the use of street drugs like heroin (which gives a similar high and is even cheaper to obtain on the street) to grow. And, the long spiral downward doesn't stop there. When certain street drugs like heroin aren't available, drug addicts often then turn to incredibly dangerous synthetics like fentanyl, (which is far stronger than heroin) and the result is usually a body bag. In the United States, synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, are now the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths, responsible for 59% of all opioid-related decedents.
In Indiana, instances of children being removed from their homes due to family drug use are increasing at an alarming rate. In 2016, over 50% of cases where children were removed from their homes by the Indiana Department of Child Services were directly because of drug or alcohol use by a parent, and this rate is up over 50% since just 2013. And, since we know that statistically children that live with an addicted family member are four times more likely to misuse drugs or alcohol themselves, these numbers are cause for alarm.
The good news for Indiana residents struggling with drug and alcohol addiction is that help is only a few clicks away. The Hoosier State has a myriad of resources to fit every need, whether you just need counseling, a broader more community-based approach, or full-on detox services. The important part is acknowledging the forces holding you back so you can begin the journey towards breaking free of them. As a very famous Hoosier once opined:
"The best way to predict your future is to create it." - Abraham Lincoln
Indiana State Facts
Indiana Population: 6,080,305
Law Enforcement Officers in Indiana: 12,551
Indiana Prison Population: 34,800
Indiana Probation Population: 104,116
Violent Crime Rate National Ranking: 2
2004 Federal Drug Seizures in Indiana
Cocaine: 100.0 kgs.
Heroin: 0.1 kgs.
Methamphetamine: 17.5 kgs.
Marijuana: 986.6 kgs.
Ecstasy: 958 tablets
Methamphetamine Laboratories: 525 (DEA, state, and local)
Indiana Drug Situation: Indiana is an active drug transportation and distribution area. The northern part of Indiana lies on Lake Michigan, which is a major waterway within the St. Lawrence Seaway system providing international shipping for all sections of the Midwest. Seven interstate highway systems and 20 U.S. highways provide interstate and intrastate links for drug trafficking, especially with the Southwest Border and California. Highway (automobile and trucking) and airline trafficking are the primary means of drug importation, with busing systems as a secondary means. Mexican criminal groups are the primary wholesale distributors of marijuana, powdered cocaine, and methamphetamine within Indiana.
Cocaine in Indiana: Powdered cocaine is readily available throughout the state, and crack cocaine is primarily available within the urban areas. Most of the heavily populated areas continue to experience shootings and other acts of violence over drug debts. Mexican trafficking organizations distribute cocaine to Caucasian, African American, and other Hispanic groups.
Heroin in Indiana: Heroin is not readily available in central and southern Indiana. In northern Indiana, Southeast Asian white heroin has decreased and has been replaced by Mexican brown and black tar heroin. Heroin abusers range in age from teenagers to older adults. Hispanic trafficking organizations transport and distribute Mexican heroin.
Methamphetamine in Indiana: The influx of methamphetamine into Indiana has increased from year to year. Mexican trafficking organizations are transporting from 15 to 25 pounds at a time with a purity level ranging from 25 to 85 percent. The Mexican organizations are noted for cutting the product 2 or 3 times before distribution. The product is manufactured in Mexico or the southwestern states and transported into Indiana. The local methamphetamine distributors operating small toxic labs sell a better quality product with a purity of 30 to 40 percent, but do not produce large enough quantities to support wholesale distribution. The small individual operations of independent entrepreneurs produce enough methamphetamine for their own use and that of their friends. They may also sell small amounts. These small toxic labs, usually constructed in barns or residential homes, do not produce enough for retail distribution.
Club Drugs in Indiana: The abuse of club drugs such as Ecstasy (MDMA), GHB, Ketamine, and LSD is not a significant problem, and for the most part, has remained stable. There have been small seizures of 20 to 30 pill quantities. The MDMA is produced in foreign countries and smuggled into port cities of the United Stated and eventually to Indiana. There has been a slight increase in liquid PCP.
Marijuana in Indiana: Marijuana abuse remains a significant problem within Indiana. Marijuana produced in Mexico is transported and distributed by Mexican organizations. Transportation is usually by tractor-trailers in multi-hundred pound quantities. Locally produced marijuana is cultivated throughout Indiana at indoor and outdoor grow sites. The outdoor sites are usually located in farm fields, wooded areas, National Forests, public lands, or near riverbanks. Indoor grows are located in private residences or large barn-type building on private land. As a result of DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program, the Indiana State Police eradicated 220,000,000 plants growing wild in northern Indiana.
Other Drugs in Indiana: Pseudoephedrine: The diversion of over-the-counter pseudoephedrine products is a major contributor to clandestine methamphetamine manufacturing. Retail stores, a source of pseudoephedrine for clandestine manufacturers, monitor inappropriate retail level purchases by individuals. OxyContin continues to be a threat. In addition, hydrococone and benzodiazepines remain the primary pharmaceutical drugs abused throughout the state of Indiana. In 2004, the state of Indiana will be expanding the prescription-monitoring program to include Schedule II to Schedule V pharmaceutical controlled substances.
DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams: This cooperative program with state and local law enforcement counterparts was conceived in 1995 in response to the overwhelming problem of drug-related violent crime in towns and cities across the nation. There have been 409 deployments completed resulting in 16,763 arrests of violent drug criminals as of February 2004. There have been five MET deployments in the State of Indiana since the inception of the program: Ft. Wayne, Indianapolis, Michigan City, Hammond, and Terre Haute.
DEA Regional Enforcement Teams: This program was designed to augment existing DEA division resources by targeting drug organizations operating in the United States where there is a lack of sufficient local drug law enforcement. This Program was conceived in 1999 in response to the threat posed by drug trafficking organizations that have established networks of cells to conduct drug trafficking operations in smaller, non-traditional trafficking locations in the United States. Nationwide, there have been 22 deployments completed resulting in 608 arrests of drug trafficking criminals as of February 2004. There have been no RET deployments in the State of Indiana.
DEA Special Topics: During October 1997, ONDCP designated a single county in northwest Indiana as the Lake County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (Lake County HIDTA). The Lake County HIDTA consists of several state, county, local, and federal agencies.