INDIANAPOLIS — Recovery advocates in Indiana are issuing an urgent warning after they saw an increase in overdoses last weekend in Marion County.
From Thursday through Saturday, there were nearly 50 overdoses involving nine hospitals in Marion County, according to the Indiana Addictions Issues Coalition.
From Friday through Sunday, Indianapolis EMS responded to 68 overdose calls, Brian Van Bokkenelen, media relations and public affairs manager for IEMS, said. Not all overdose calls were related to heroin or opioids, Van Bokkenelen, said.
They used 39 doses of naloxone during the same period, Van Bokkenelen said. While most patients only get one dose, some patients don't get any and some may get more than one.
Last month, Indianapolis EMS crews used naloxone on 30% more runs compared to February 2021, Van Bokkenelen said.
From Thursday through Sunday, the Marion County Coroner's Office is investigating 11 possible overdose deaths, Deputy Administrator Marchele Hall said.
While all data is not confirmed yet, the coroner's office is investigating 154 overdoses so far this year. Only 50 cases of those are confirmed, but Hall said based on additional information they are gathering, these will all likely be overdoses.
In the first two months of 2021, the coroner's office saw 126 overdose deaths.
Brandon George, director of Indiana Addictions Issues Coalition and vice president of Mental Health America of Indiana, said it was a bad weekend in Marion County.
"It's no surprise that overdoses have been on the rise again. The last couple of years during the pandemic, we saw a 30% increase in 2020. We're probably going to see something similar in 2021," George said. "It's a major concern and I think that this is a peek into what we're going to continue to deal with for some time."
He said the everyday, average, user is at a high risk of overdosing right now for one main reason.
People who expect to get drugs like cocaine, a couple of pills, ecstasy or some type of stimulant are suddenly dying, George said. Even college kids who are trying to take a pill so they can stay up all night and study.
"That's not somebody in the past that was at risk of overdose," George said. "And now, all these types of recreational users are at risk."
George is warning people to not use drugs alone, make sure someone nearby has Narcan and people are testing drugs for fentanyl before using.
"And, you know, we want to get folks into treatment. We want to get folks into recovery," George said. "But first and foremost, we have to keep people alive."
Part of what makes drugs and fentanyl so deadly, George said, is they aren't made in an approved laboratory with sanitation requirements.
As George described, if someone is using one type of drug on a countertop and then puts another drug on the countertop afterward, there's a chance some residue could be leftover.
"And just that small amount is enough to produce a fatal overdose," George said. "I liken it to somebody with a severe allergy. You know, if you have a kid with a severe peanut allergy, you would make sure that peanuts are not used anywhere in that kitchen, like not on the same countertop, not in the same area because of the sensitivity to it. And so, fentanyl is the same way. Just simply having it around other drugs can make it so that all of a sudden what might be a recreational night out turns to a deadly night out."
George is urging everyone to educate themselves about naloxone, also known as Narcan. He said it's like an epi-pen.
"Think about somebody that has an allergic reaction," George said. "You give them that epi-pen and it reverses that action very, very similar for opiate. Specifically, somebody experiences an overdose, you give them the naloxone and it's a reversal agent. It's not a long-term drug that's used, there's no danger behind it."
Years ago, George said the focus was on getting naloxone to first responders, law enforcement officers and health departments.
"What we found out is the real first responders in these situations are family members. They're bystanders, they're members of the community," he said. "And so you run a business and you have a first aid kit, you should have naloxone in there. If you have an AED in your building, you should have naloxone in there."
If you or someone you know is dealing with a substance use-related emergency, call 911.
For more information on a recovery organization near you, you can visit the Indiana Recovery Network website.
You can call 211 for help 24/7 in Indiana.
You can call the Indiana Addiction Hotline at 1-800-622-HELP (4357).
To find where you can get Naloxone near you, click here.
To learn more about NaloxBoxes, click here.
To view more resources from NextLevel Recovery Indiana, click here to visit its website.
Click here to learn more about substance use disorders.
Substance use disorder-related data from the state.