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Opana-Related HIV Outbreak in Indiana

Governor Mike Pence of Indiana declared a public health emergency four days ago in an effort to get an HIV outbreak under control. Although he has banned needle exchanges, 90 new HIV cases in the last few months in one small county convinced him that he needs to temporarily lift that ban. Almost all the HIV cases are related to injecting Opana with shared needles.

The county offering needle exchanges is Scott County – population just over 24,000. Among them are 84 confirmed HIV cases, and five that look likely. Just a few days ago, that number was only 79. So there’s no sign of let-up.

According to a March 20th article in The Indianapolis Star–at which time there were 55 confirmed cases, and 13 more that were suspect—four other counties also have addiction problems: Washington, Perry, Clark and Jackson. Doctors and an epidemiologist, all from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are in Scott County now to help contain the outbreak.

All the HIV cases “are connected to injection of the powerful painkiller Opana, although some involved have said that sexual transmission of the virus also may have played a role” said the Indiana State Department of Health.

The five counties are in southeastern Indiana, where they’ve had a prescription drug problem for a long time. When they got rid of some pill mills, and the makers of Opana came out with a new formulation that’s easier to crush, the number of prescriptions filled decreased, although it’s obviously still a big problem. Also, the heroin statistics went up, which indicates that the Opana users switched to heroin—a problem all across the country.

Three years ago, Reuters wrote an article about Opana and referred to it as the ‘hot new prescription drug of abuse’ in a story about 24-year-old C.J. Coomer, who overdosed and died the first time he tried it. He’d been using prescription painkillers for a while—but Opana is way stronger than anything he’d used, even OxyContin. He didn’t know that, or didn’t take it into consideration when he tried Opana.

A word of warning on that case: if you’re getting divorced, try not to upset the life of the kids. C.J. was doing great in Houston, Texas before his parents were divorced. Did well in school, played football, popular guy, loved and admired by all—including his parents. His mother moved to Scott County, Indiana, after the divorce and C.J. wound up in an impoverished area with high unemployment. His life changed radically, and he started hanging out with prescription drug abusers. And it was all downhill from there.

Scott County isn’t just facing an HIV outbreak. So far this year, in just three months, at least 9 people have died from prescription drugs. That’s nearly half the number of similar deaths through the entirety of last year.

The Scott County coroner, Kevin Collins, is up for re-election next year but he’s not even going to run. He’s had it with the deaths. “We’re seeing a lot of 25-year-olds who are dead for no apparent reason,” he said.

Opana, also known as “stop signs,” “the O bomb,” and “new blues,” is the worst addiction problem police in Indiana have ever seen.

If you know someone on drugs – no matter what kind – be aware that addicts can go from one drug to another and, like C.J., can try something new.

Now is the time to get them the help they need. Call us to help you figure out which drug rehab center might be the best choice for their situation.

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