By Adrianna Pitrelli
INDIANAPOLIS — Spending summers poolside with his family at his Brownsburg home, and hanging out with friends on the weekends were some of Brandon George’s favorite activities growing up.
But quickly, the carefree weekends came with consequences — consequences that could have cost him his life.
George began drinking and using drugs recreationally.
At 15, he was arrested.
At 18, he didn’t have a high school diploma.
At 22, he entered a rehab facility, but he began using more often.
“I wasn’t willing to take treatment recommended by them, so my drug use got worse,” George said. “At that point I was using crystal meth and heroin in an IV, and the consequences started to spiral pretty fast.”
Two of his friends were murdered because of drugs he sold. He stole from his family, his best friend and his girlfriend. He was unemployed, living in a laundry room and had a daughter he only spoke to around holidays.
“I went to five different facilities and it only got worse,” George said. “Then I finally landed in a residential treatment facility.”
George told his story of addiction and recovery to the Indiana Commission to Combat Drug Abuse meeting Thursday where Gov. Eric Holcomb announced that Indiana is rolling out a program to closely monitor prescriptions for opioids. Indiana’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, known as INSPECT, is said to decrease opioid abuse by 70 percent.
“The program is going to give practitioners access to important information that will show invaluable controlled substance data,” Holcomb said. “The better use of INSPECT data will reduce inappropriate drug use and will improve patient care.”
Gov. Eric Holcomb
INSPECT is a three-year plan to implement a statewide, comprehensive platform for healthcare professionals to review patient’s controlled-substance perception history more quickly and efficiently. The state hopes to roll this out to 32,000 controlled substance providers and 11,000 pharmacies.
Currently, it takes more than 10 minutes to check on someone’s usage history, and is only done if a prescriber suspects a patient to be a heavy user. Because of this, a person’s prescription history is rarely checked, causing drug abuse to happen regularly.
However, with the new program, the history will be shown instantly at pharmacies, allowing red flags to be raised if a patient has received numerous opioid-based perceptions within a short amount of time.
Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, said the program won’t just allow the number of opioid users to dwindle, it will also help with crime and child abuse — both issues linked to drug abuse.
“Across the country we are facing an opioid epidemic that is nearing crisis level,” she said. “We have to stop the problem at its source. We have to stop addicts before they become addicts.”
In 2016, 15.1 million prescriptions were written in Indiana, equal to 160 pills for every man woman and child in the Hoosier state, according to Houchin. By implementing the multi-front approach of combatting opioid abuse, she said the state could expect to see a 70 percent decrease in opioid prescriptions.
Kroger and a pharmacy in Evansville already implement this system, and Holcomb said Meijer pharmacies will be the next to add the platform. Indiana is only the seventh state to have this program.
“This is a big, big step toward a greater use of a bigger tool,” Holcomb said. “This may be the solution, a defining moment in someone’s life as they seek to stay on the path of recovery.”
For George, his stay in a residential treatment facility made a difference. While most people stay in residential treatment for 30 to 90 days, George stayed for 11 months, striving to get better.
“I started to teach myself stuff,” he said. “Like that I wasn’t a bad person — I was a sick person. Then I started to slowly learn things about forgiveness, compassion and leadership.”
After 11 months of treatment and using the skills he learned while in the facility, George began living a normal life again.
He got a job at a restaurant, worked hard and eventually became a general manager.
He not only got his high school diploma, he obtained a college degree.
He was finally clean, but with the help of medication-assisted treatment.
“These things that happened to me and these arrests that happened while I was younger, I thought they were the worst things that ever happened to me,” George said. “But those liabilities have turned into my greatest asset now.”
He mended his relationships with his family and friends. The girlfriend he stole from is now his wife. He is the director of Community Relations at Pro-Active Resources Counseling Center, and he helped his daughter, who he once rarely talked to, through the college admissions process.
“We are not bad people trying to get good, we are sick people trying to get well,” George said. “Not everyone had the resources I had, so we need to expand our resources for people who are suffering.”
Adrianna Pitrelli is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.