Another New Face of Addiction: HIV Outbreak in Indiana Highlights Changing Tide of Substance Abuse

New Port Richey, FL (PRWEB) April 02, 2015

Since December, more than 80 people in Scott County, Indiana, have tested positive for HIV, with most cases occurring over the past few weeks. This has lead Gov. Mike Pence to declare the outbreak a public health emergency. (1) Kent Runyon, Executive Director of Florida drug rehab facility Novus Medical Detox Center, was contacted by Healthlinewhich broke the story last Saturdayto comment on the epidemic, and discussed how the outbreak could be due to lack of education about how HIV is transmitted.

The Scott County HIV epidemic is the worst outbreak in Indianas history. Before the recent outbreak, HIV was a rare occurrence in Scott County. Statewide, the rate of new HIV transmissions in Indiana had actually been declining over the past 10 years. The statistic dropped from 463 reported new HIV cases in 2002, to 205 reported new HIV cases in 2012. (2) Nationally, rates of HIV diagnosis have also been declining in recent years. While the sudden spike in HIV cases is alarming, it highlights the problem even further when taken into account that HIV is largely an urban problem. In 2013, only an approximate 6% of new diagnoses were in counties with fewer than 50,000 people. (3)

The outbreak has been linked to the intravenous use of the prescription drug Opana, an opioid painkiller. Law enforcement officials state that the rise in Opana abuse started in 2010 after OxyContin was changed to make the drug more difficult to snort or inject for a heroin-like high. Opana is more potent, per milligram, than OxyContin, making it easier to overdose on. According to the Centers for Disease Control, prescription drug abuse has become the scourge of rural America, leading to more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined. Rural residents are nearly twice as likely to overdose on pills as people in big cities. (4)

[Victims of the HIV outbreak] obviously knew each other, thought they trusted each other, and had this incredible comfortable level that needle sharers share, Runyon is quoted as saying in Healthline. This really speaks again to the desperation of those suffering from addiction. (5)

Novus has been on the forefront in warning the media of lack of drug education. In 2014, Novus broke the news of a new face of addiction to CNBCwhite-collar professionals and soccer moms becoming addicted to opioids unwittingly, and becoming the majority of patients in their center. (6) Education was badly needed then; Runyon stated, people need to know the deadly chain of events that occur from being prescribed schedule II narcotics and the ripple effects it has in [our] society. Now there is a new face of addiction.

The city of Austin is the epicenter of the outbreak, with most of the cases occurring among the citys population of 4,200. (3) Scott County is one of the poorest regions of Indiana, with the 2010 census reporting a median household income of $ 39,588. (4) Furthermore, the county is relatively uneducated, with only 11.8% of the population holding a bachelors degree or higher. (7)

Because of this public health emergency, Scott County has instituted a short-term needle exchange program so that drug users can use clean needles. However, Gov. Pence has spoken out against the needle exchange program, saying, I dont believe effective anti-drug policy involves handing out drug paraphernalia. He has also stated that he will veto a broad-based needle exchange program bill if sent to him by the legislature, despite endorsement of the program by the CDC. (8) But according to Novus, needle exchange programs are a critical piece of drug education, because they connect professionals with at risk individuals and present the opportunity to provide them with resources for not only avoiding health risks, but also for detox and recovery options.

While the outbreak is currently concentrated among drug addicts, there is a risk of the virus spreading to the general population, as well. According to Dr. William Cooke, the transmission rate has been about 80%, meaning that 8 in 10 users who have admitted to sharing needles with someone who has the virus have tested positive for HIV. (3)

Per Runyon, Scott County residents are missing key substance abuse education, and many likely dont understand the risks of sharing needles, as the county currently lacks accessible outlets or resources for drug addicts. Runyon encourages better education and resources on drug addiction, and encourages those who are addicted to seek help.

The risk of HIV infection from contaminated needles has become a very real danger in Indiana, says Runyon. The more we can inform people about the risks associated with drug use, the more lives we can ultimately save.

About Novus Medical Detox Center:

Novus Medical Detox Center is a Joint Commission Accredited inpatient medical detox facility that offers safe, effective alcohol and drug treatment programs in a home-like residential setting. Located on 3.25 tree-lined acres in New Port Richey, Fla., Novus is also licensed by the Florida Department of Children and Families and is known for minimizing the discomfort of withdrawal from prescription medication, drugs or alcohol by creating a customized detox program for each patient. By incorporating medication, natural supplements and fluid replenishment, Novus tailors the detox process for each patient, putting the dignity and humanity back into drug detoxification. Patients have 24/7 medical supervision, including round-the-clock nursing care and access to a withdrawal specialist, and enjoy comfortable private or shared rooms with a telephone, cable television and high-speed Internet access. Novus expansion is tied to their contribution to their industry and their local community, ranking number 48 on the Tampa Bay Business Journals 2014 Fast 50 Awards list of the fastest-growing companies in Tampa Bay, and number 2,936 on the 2014 Inc. 500/5000 list of fastest-growing companies in America. For more information, visit


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