The opioid and tobacco epidemics claimed 14,200 Indiana resident lives in 2017 and cost our state $12.6 billion annually in healthcare costs, lost productivity and other economic damages, according to a pair of reports recently released by the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, created by the Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health – Indianapolis, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the National Bureau of Economic Research.
The opioid epidemic that has devastated Hoosier lives and communities is becoming even deadlier. More than 1,700 Hoosiers died from drug overdoses in 2017 – an all-time high and a 75 percent increase since 2011. The vast majority of these deaths were linked to opioid misuse. Tobacco claims seven times as many lives as the opioid epidemic. Smoking and secondhand smoke cause a combined 12,500 Hoosier deaths each year – the equivalent of more than two dozen Boeing 747 plane crashes with no survivors.
The new reports provide an update from 2016 analyses the Foundation commissioned on Indiana’s opioid and tobacco challenges. While progress has been made to address both health crises, the dynamic nature of the opioid epidemic and the stubborn persistence of tobacco mean more work must be done to make meaningful progress.
“There has been heightened awareness and meaningful action to confront both the opioid and tobacco epidemics in our state, but today’s reports show we still have tremendous unfinished business,” said Ms. Claire Fiddian-Green, president and CEO of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation. “These two addiction challenges are root causes of Indiana’s poor health outcomes and burdensome healthcare costs. All Hoosiers must realize the urgency and work together to address them.”
The rising number of drug-related fatalities in Indiana is driven by an evolution in the opioid crisis that has been observed in states across the country: While there has been a steep decline since 2011 in the number of fatal overdoses that involve prescription opioids – thanks to strong actions from stakeholders across the state – Indiana has seen a rapid rise in the synthetic narcotic fentanyl. The presence of fentanyl in Marion County overdoses increased from six percent in 2013 to 46 percent in 2017. Tobacco also has a devastating effect on Hoosier health. More than one in five Hoosiers smokes, and Indiana places among the 10 states with the highest smoking rates nationwide.
Rates of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome induced by drug use during pregnancy rose by 87 percent in Indiana from 2013 to 2016, and the number of Indiana children in foster care due to drug misuse by caregivers nearly tripled – to almost 9,000 kids – from 2003 to 2016. Each year, 3,700 children under 18 become new daily smokers. Nearly 14 percent of women in Indiana smoke while pregnant, ranking our state 11th worst in the U.S. in this category.
“Opioid misuse and tobacco addiction lead to devastating health outcomes, including for some of the most vulnerable Hoosiers – children,” said Dr. Paul Halverson, founding Dean of the Fairbanks School of Public Health. “The reports show us the magnitude of lives impacted by these challenges and should spur us to action so we can help reverse the tide.”
The reports also reveal how both health crises create significant costs for taxpayers, health systems and Indiana businesses. View and download both reports and a full list of recommendations for action.