Use of naloxone expanding quickly in Indianapolis as officials continue to deal with growing number of overdoses

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Police officers, firefighters and EMS crews will set a record this year in administering doses of naloxone to overdosing opioid users in Marion County.

Through Dec. 8, Indianapolis EMS reports 1,662 doses of naloxone had been given to users on the brink of death throughout the county, far outpacing last year’s total of 1,225 doses.

Those numbers have steadily climbed since 2011 when the drug was administered 565 times.

The increase is likely due to naloxone’s widespread availability to first responders as well as the explosion of heroin usage in Indianapolis.

IEMS estimates 25 percent of its naloxone patients have been rescued previously by timely application of the drug.

“When somebody overdoses, they don’t want to overdose again,” said Dr. Brad Ray of IUPUI’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs who found patients are not using the potential availability of naloxone as an excuse to overdose. “That’s a very bad experience and if they could get into treatment, many individuals would prefer that. What we are seeing is there are some folks who are overdosing a lot, and there are some frequent fliers, and a lot of those are the individuals that we remember, but a lot of those that overdose, EMS doesn’t see again.”

Since 2010 more than 1,200 people have died of drug overdoses in Marion County.

“So you may have one interruption and that might work for one individual-- it might work for a few individuals, but when we think about relapse to break that habit, to have an interruption, to have a change, you might have multiple times you’re going to fail before it finally kicks in,” said Dr. Eric Grommon of IUPUI-SPEA.  “We’re always going to phase out of events in our life, so, if it's one naloxone administration, if it's three or four….it might take more than one time for some folks to kind of break the cycle to have that kind of realization that its time to change.”

From 2010 to 2015, Ray’s research found the average fatal overdose patient in Marion County was a 39-year-old male. Men are twice as likely to die from an overdose as women. Eighty-five percent of the fatalities are whites. Forty-five percent have never been married.

“Naloxone doesn’t want to make people do these drugs. It's there for individuals who are using these drugs already to give them a second chance, to give them a third chance, as many chances as it takes to not die,” said Ray. “Right now in Marion County, I would wager to say you’re more likely to die from a heroin overdose or an opiate overdose than the flu.”

The study of best practices by IUPUI-SPEA researchers provided the basis for Mayor Joe Hogsett’s criminal justice reform report issued Monday that calls for more intervention and treatment of the mentally ill and drug addicted to free up space in a new jail for violent offenders.

“It is almost two to three times more expensive to have people locked up,” said Grommon who studied the impact of diverting low-risk offenders from incarceration and into treatment. “You would have to assume that that’s a lot cheaper than, ‘Lets throw them into the Marion County Jail, lets just throw them into prison and hope that they’ll detox there without much intervention, without having some medication available to them.’”

EMS estimates each dose of naloxone costs between $30-50.

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