Overdose Lifeline discusses solutions to Indiana’s opioid epidemic


A program manager for the Community Health Network, Molly Kirwan, informs students of the dangers of prescription opioids at 7 PM in the Black Box on Oct. 30. Photo by Ethan O’Sullivan.

Ethan O'Sullivan, Web Editor

Overdose Lifeline, a non-profit organization which works in partnership with Community Health Network, hosted a presentation on Indiana’s opioid epidemic on Oct. 31. Five students attended, including three members of the Students in Action Club who took notes on ideas they can use to improve their community.

For the primary speaker, Molly Kirwan, the crowd size was ideal. As the Program Manager for the school-based counseling service at Community Health, this was her first presentation. She still reads from her notes, but the small first crowd opened the door for a less formulaic conversation. Sophie Casalini, the Assistant Director of Education, served as a secondary speaker.

The two began by discussing how an opioid can change an ordinary life. Casalini openly disclosed the fact that she is a recovering opioid addict herself, using it to highlight her point that nobody is immune. Addiction does not reflect poor willpower; it is a disease.

They played clips of teens sharing experiences that they or loved ones have had with opioids. Although Overdose Lifeline planned to talk to five active teenage users, one died of an overdose shortly before his scheduled interview.

Opioids differ from other drugs because its addiction and abuse often begins with a doctor’s note. According to the statistics that Overdose Lifeline used, prescription medications cause 80 percent of opioid overdoses, which can be just as dangerous as heroin when used improperly.

The epidemic is particularly prevalent in the Midwest compared to the rest of the country. Outside of prescription misuse, the speakers attributed the cause to a new wave of crime.

“The market was already super flooded in the south,” Casalini said. “[Drug cartels] wanted a new place to distribute where their product would take off. They settled in Ohio.”

For the majority of the presentation, Kirwan and Casalini discussed Narcan, a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. She emphasized that Narcan is not just a first responder’s tool; it can actually be purchased over-the-counter. The drug requires uncomplicated training that a pharmacist can teach.

“There are a lot of mixed feelings about Narcan being available over-the-counter now,” Casalini said. “Some people believe that it only enables using because a lot of users have stopped caring. If they overdose and get revived with Narcan, they’ll just go back out and use again.”

Narcan itself cannot cure an addiction, nor does it guarantee that the victim will survive. According to the presentation, if the dose wears off before someone seeks greater medical attention, the user can still slip back into an overdose. It can, however, give them a chance to turn their life around.