By Marlin Stutzman
Last week, two bills introduced in Indiana by state Reps. Ben Smaltz and David Frizzell passed with wide support and now proceed to Gov. Mike Pence for final approval. H.B. 1390 would make it easier for pharmacies to require subscriptions when selling suspicious amounts of pseudoephedrine -- a key ingredient in methamphetamine, and H.B. 1157 would prevent drug-related convicts from buying pseudoephedrine. These are steps in the right direction. Illegal drug use spreads like a dark cloud over communities affected by it, and it rains down misery on all that it touches.
Nationally rising rates of opioid abuse have placed this critical issue in the spotlight across America. The ease with which heroin can be transported and distributed via interstate highways has enabled sellers to reach communities all across our state. From 2008 to 2013, the amount of heroin cases reported by Indiana State Police increased from 354 to 1,396. Although state and local law enforcement are working overtime combating the heroin problem, addiction often starts at home with the abuse and overprescription of legal painkillers.
Unfortunately, heroin and opioids are only part of the larger battle. Methamphetamine also plagues our great state, and if we as Hoosiers want to put an end to the drug crisis, we need to address the threat of illegal drugs as a whole. While heroin can be shipped into urban areas and spread quickly, meth tends to be made in remote rural locations and devastate those communities. In 2013, 1,797 meth labs were seized by Indiana law enforcement. That is more than any other state. While this high seizure rate is alarming, it speaks to the great work being done by local police departments. The drug epidemic affects all parts of the state, and law enforcement demands the support of state leaders, health care professionals and of one Indiana community to make more progress.
Since this is a communal effort, we must admit there is no simple solution. However, I am proud to join the efforts of my colleagues in Indiana government to strengthen our state's resolve against drugs. Late last year, Gov. Pence created a special task force for coordinating statewide efforts to curb current drug use and prevent future cases. Local groups can follow this lead. Consider Madison County, where a health summit has been arranged for April 14 to address the response to heroin overdose in the region.
There are ways to combat illegal drugs. While some may work well and others not so well, we cannot stop trying. If we remain strong and united against drug abuse, we will leave a safer Indiana for our children. We must put behind bars the distributors and manufacturers of drugs. We must also care for the victims, addicts and those harmed by the addiction of others. We must spread awareness and educate children against this poison. I ask all my fellow Hoosiers to join me in a bold effort to push out drugs and defend our treasured home.