At a glance
•For more information on prescription drug abuse, the state has set up a website at www.in.gov/bitterpill
Two men at the house said they found her lying unconscious on the floor that afternoon and dialed 911.
Annette Veach was 39 years old, and investigators believe she spent her last hours the night of Nov. 24 and the morning of Nov. 25 ingesting prescription drugs and drinking.
High levels of morphine caused her death, the Huntington County coroner later ruled, but Veach also had oxycodone and oxymorphone in her system.
For the past several years, it has been no secret that deaths caused by overdoses on prescription drugs, just like the one involving Annette Veach, have been on the rise.
But a new study shows just how much the problem has spiked throughout the country, especially among Hoosiers.
Since 1999, the number of deaths caused by overdoses – the majority of which has involved prescription drugs, outnumbering those caused by heroin and cocaine combined – has quadrupled in Indiana, according to the Trust for America's Health.
Indiana is one of only four states in the nation to see such a rise, according to the report, but it's hardly alone in dramatic spikes.
Twenty-nine other states have seen overdose deaths at least double, and the report ranks the Hoosier State as the 17th highest in drug-related deaths.
None of these numbers, though, are news to state officials, who've set about creating websites, task forces and legislation.
And now, new rules are set to go into effect this year for doctors prescribing medication to nonterminal patients suffering from chronic pain.
These rules are designed to make sure patients are properly educated about the drugs they're taking, to better monitor those who might be abusing such drugs and to prevent them from doctor shopping for more meds than they need.
For some reason, researchers found that rural areas had high levels of overdose deaths, with rates twice as high as in cities, Hamburg said.
Age might have to do with some of that, with an older population receiving more prescriptions for more ailments.
Dr. Deborah McMahan, Fort Wayne-Allen County health commissioner, attributes the rise in pain medication abuse throughout the country to a culture shift that began in the late 1990s.
Then, many doctors were hesitant to prescribe pain medication, and, according to McMahan, some research showed that doctors might have been underprescribing such medications.
Soon, news stories began talking about what drugs were available, and many people experiencing pain wanted pills to make it go away.
"It was the perfect storm," McMahan said. "It was an expectation created by a lot of folks and the media, doctors were accommodating and there was so much medicine out there."
Many experts, McMahan and Hamburg included, believe for many years barely anyone was properly educated on certain aspects of these drugs.
People didn't know the potential consequences of giving leftover medication to someone else, maybe even someone in their own home.
Many weren't taught how to properly store it away from others, especially teenagers, who were abusing such drugs at a high rate, according to many studies.
"It's become a really big problem, and we needed to get aggressive addressing it," McMahan said.
Amid a constant stream of news and studies detailing the scope of drug abuse, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller created the state's Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force.
The task force was designed to come up with new rules, make recommendations and new state statutes when it came to prescription drug abuse.
Among its members are McMahan and pharmacist Tracy Brooks, an assistant chair of pharmacy practice and assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Manchester College.
New rules for doctors to follow were recommended to the state's Medical Licensing Board, and according to Brooks and McMahan, those rules are now in the final stages of being enacted.
The new rules pertain to physicians dealing with patients who are nonterminal.
Beginning this year, physicians will be required to do a thorough evaluation of patients, which includes baseline urine drug screens to see if other drugs are in their systems.
Doctors will also be required to run patients' names through INSPECT, a statewide monitoring program that shows what prescriptions they might have been given.
These physicians also need to go over more education with patients, see them more often and have patients sign a "Treatment Agreement."
By signing, patients agree not to see other doctors for opioids. If they do, or if they're found to be taking illegal drugs with the prescribed ones, doctors can drop them from their care.
And if treatment requires the drug equivalent of 60 milligrams of morphine, the doctor will have to meet with the patient and have a face-to-face conversation.
Those requirements not only make doctors more aware of the prescriptions given to patients but force the patients to become more educated.
"All of us, physicians, nurses, pharmacists, play a part in educating patients, and there is a lack of that," said Brooks, the Manchester College pharmacist. "These new rules and regulations require more conversation with patients."
Brooks' main area of practice is in hospice medicine and palliative care and deals with patients who very much need pain medication.
She said these patients will have no trouble with the new regulations, as they do not apply to the vast majority of them.
Brooks also added that through federal grants, which are being pumped into pharmacy schools across the country, pain management curriculum is now being tackled by students on a more regular basis.
In years past, that wasn't always the case for budding pharmacists.
Brooks said that curriculum is already being taught at Manchester College's College of Pharmacy, which finished its first year in May.
"We are far ahead of the curve," Brooks said.
According to a police report, she was drinking at a bar with another woman the morning of her death.
That woman, 40-year-old Christy D. Oden, told police Veach had two white pills she planned to crush so the two could snort them later at the home where Veach died.
What happened at the home is not entirely clear.
It's unknown whether Veach really knew what the drugs she ingested could do to her, or if she worried about such things.
But by doing so she became another statistic in what experts are calling an epidemic of prescription drug abuse.
What is known is that Oden had prescriptions for the drugs found in Veach's system, and investigators believe, in many drug deaths, she gave them to the person these drugs ultimately killed.
Oden has been charged with a felony count of reckless homicide and three felony counts of drug dealing, charges that could put her in prison for decades.
She's scheduled to go to trial early next month.