LAST LINE OF DEFENSE: HOW INDIANA CAN ENCOURAGE NALOXONE AVAILABILITY DURING ITS OPIOID CRISIS

JOHN MILLIKAN

J.D. Candidate, 2019, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law; B.A. 2009, Anderson University.

In fall 2009, Lawrence North sophomore Aaron Sims spent Friday nights as a promising young quarterback for his Indianapolis high school football team, bracing for his chance in the coming year to be the team’s starter. Less than four years later, Sims was found dead in his bedroom next to a needle and a spoon with a shoelace choking his right arm. The story of Aaron Sims provides just one example of how quickly and drastically opioid abuse can destroy a life and just one example of how the epidemic of illicit drug use is sweeping across Indiana and the nation. Like many, Sims slipped into the dark world of opioid abuse by first getting his hands on a bottle of prescription painkiller drugs and progressed to stealing family members’ pain relievers from their medicine cabinets. Eventually Sims became addicted to heroin, the drug that led to his overdose on Oct. 9, 2013.

Heroin is one of dozens of drugs in the opioid family—a list that includes widely-prescribed pain relievers oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and fentanyl. “Opioids are chemically related and interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the brain and nervous system to produce pleasurable effects and relieve pain,” and “addiction is a primary, chronic, and relapsing brain disease characterized by an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.” Overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States with 52,404 drug overdoses in 2015—a number that includes 20,101 overdose deaths from prescription pain relievers and 12,990 overdose deaths from heroin. In 2016, 757 people died from opioid overdoses in Indiana, a death rate fifty-two percent higher than the previous year and more than double from 2013. [Read entire Note here].