INDIANAPOLIS - The Indianapolis-based Fairbanks Foundation has released two reports detailing the toll drugs -- especially opioids -- and tobacco take on the state. The nonprofit says drug deaths in Indiana, the "vast majority" linked to opioids, rose to more than 1,700 last year. The data links smoking and secondhand smoke to 12,500 deaths in 2017. In all, the results say, the addictions cost the state $12.6 billion annually.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business Reporter Mary-Rachel Redman, Chief Executive Officer Claire Fiddian-Green described the loss of life in Indiana as monumental. "We all have to be paying attention," she said, "and we need to act with urgency. Everyone can play a role: policymakers, employers, health systems, K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and everyone else." Fiddian-Green adds that prevention and recovery are everybody's responsibility.

The figures show opioid overdoses are at an all-time high and have jumped 75 percent since 2011. In more vivid terms, the foundation says the death toll from smoking and secondhand smoke alone cause the equivalent of more than two dozen Boeing 747 airplanes crashing with no survivors.

The Fairbanks Foundation says more work is needed to make meaningful progress on complicated issues involving the "dynamic nature of the opioid epidemic and the stubborn persistence of tobacco." Fiddian-Green says "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 reports provide suggestions, including:

  • Increasing Indiana's cigarette tax by $2 and legal smoking age to 21
  • Expanding access to medication-assisted treatment, which has proven to be the most effective treatment approach for opioid use disorder and is hard to secure for some who most need it
  • Increasing access to harm reduction services, such as syringe exchanges and safe disposal sites for opioids
  • Implementing evidence-based prevention programming in K-12 schools
  • Adopting programs to address addiction among college students

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