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What Indiana’s opioid crisis looks like in numbers

Moussa81/iStock/Thinkstock pill, pill bottle and syringe
ADDICTION: Drug addiction affects everyone, whether you realize it or not.
Commentary: The crisis doesn’t look any better in visual terms than it sounds.

I’m a sixth-generation Hoosier — a descendant of those tough pioneers who came to Wabash and Miami counties in the 1840s to get flat, fertile farmland cheap and to build a better future for their children. In the generations that followed, rural Indiana has been a pretty good place to raise a family.

But times are changing. Rural areas are facing challenges. As I learned recently at a conference hosted by Indiana AgriInstitute, one of the deadliest and most menacing challenges is opioid abuse.

The conference was packed with all kinds of information. But here are some key “take-home points.” This problem is much bigger than I realized. Drug addiction affects us all, whether we realize it or not. Things that don’t work include denial, stigmatizing, incarcerating of victims, not talking about it and enabling victims to continue their addictions. Things that do work are awareness, treatment, support, involvement, approaching addictions from a disease perspective, needle exchanges, incarceration of drug pushers and perseverance. And perhaps most important of all, being a good neighbor.

A quote from the book “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opioid Epidemic” says: “The antidote to heroin is not naloxone (aka Narcan); it is community. Nobody can do this on their own. But no drug can stand against family, schools, churches and communities united together.”

This is a quality-of-life issue for our rural communities. As farmers, we’re taught to be good stewards of our land and leave it better than we found it. My oldest grandson is now in 4-H and sometimes talks about “taking over the farm someday.” Only time will tell if he’ll still be interested in a dozen years or so. If he is, I want rural Indiana to still be a good place to live and raise his family.

For an overview of the opioid problem, check out the infographic below.

Boone writes from Wabash, Ind.

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