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Indiana Hospitals See Rise In Heroin Overdoses

A doctor at St. Vincent Hospital says hospitals in Indiana and surrounding states have seen a 300 percent increase in heroin overdoses.

Heroin syringe

Photo: Thomas Marthinsen (Flickr)

Some doctors view opiates and prescription pain killers as a gateway to heroin.

Hospital trauma centers across Indiana are a rise in heroin-related emergencies.

St. Vincent Hospital EMS Medical Director Dr. Michael Kaufmann says hospitals in Indiana and surrounding states have seen a 300 percent increase in heroin overdoses in the past decade.

Kaufmann says Indiana is taking the lead by tackling opiate abuse which he calls the gateway for heroin.

“Doctors will need to conduct annual drug tests for patients who take chronic pain medication,” Kaufmann says. “We’ve seen Indiana take the lead on prescription monitoring programs such as the State Board of Pharmacy’s INSPECT prescription drug tracking program.”

A recent survey of 6,000 doctors, nurses, dentists and pharmacists found that 77 percent of the respondents said they know about INSPECT, and 71 percent of those use it.

But despite the state’s success in some programs, police admit limiting heroin abuse and dealing is difficult.

“Unfortunately, as tragic as it may sound, it will happen. The police can only do so much; we can’t arrest our way out it,” Major Aaron Dietz with the Hamilton/Boone County Drug Task Force told WTIU earlier this year.

Kaufmann says heroin abuse causes people to lose consciousness, they stop breathing and their blood pressure and heart rate drop. Fortunately, he says many abusers are treated with life-saving naloxone on their way to emergency rooms.

For every heroin death, Kauffman sees ten admissions for abuse.

Network Indiana contributed to this report.

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