Report: Drug Overdoses Killing More People in Indiana, Nationwide

By Mark Richardson • Indiana News Service

More in Indiana are struggling with substance use disorders, according to the latest America’s Health Rankings report.

State data show six Indiana residents died each day from a drug overdose in 2020, a 21% increase from the previous year.

Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare employer and individual, said it mirrors a nationwide trend. She pointed to new data showing drug deaths nationwide increased by 30%.

“This is the largest yearly increase in drug deaths since we’ve been looking at it in 2007,” Randall reported. “That means nearly 92,000 additional people died in the United States due to drug injury and overdose.”

There were more than 2,800 drug overdose deaths in Indiana in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over the past two decades, more than 15,000 in Indiana have lost their lives to drug overdose, according to the Indiana Department of Health.

Randall noted heavy drug use continues to burden families, communities, the health care system and the economy.

“What we see is a substantial amount of that cause of those drug overdose deaths,” Randall explained. “About 70% of it is related to an opioid, in most cases, it’s a nonprescription opioid.”

While the rate of frequent mental distress reported by residents soared during the pandemic, Randall pointed out bright spots, including an increase in the number of communities nationwide boosting their supply of mental health and primary-care providers.

“More people choosing mental health and primary care as a profession,” Randall emphasized. “More access to mental health providers.”

According to the report, suicide is the 12th-leading cause of death among Americans, with mental illness and substance-use disorders being the most significant risk factors for suicidal behaviors. In 2020, more than 45,000 people nationwide chose to end their lives.