Number of drug deaths hits too close to home

Mid-Ohio Valley residents have known for some time that substance abuse is a crisis tearing at the fabric of our states’ futures.

West Virginia has the highest illicit drug overdose death rate in the nation (52 per 100,000 residents in 2016, the most recent year covered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

Ohio is No. 2, at 39.1 per 100,000 residents.

Last week, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration released a truly shocking statistic: Drug overdose deaths set a new record last year. More than 72,000 Americans took fatal overdoses.

It is an astounding number, and one that compares unfavorable to our nation’s military conflicts. During the Vietnam War, which lasted more than a decade, the total fatality count for U.S. military personnel was 52,220, according to the Defense Department.

Drug pushers — “legal” and otherwise — are killing more Americans — far more — each year than perished in the Vietnam War.

So, is this a war?

Count the tombstones.

Today is Election Day. If you have not already done so, vote. The fight against the substance abuse epidemic is but one of many things at stake today. Don’t look for excuses. Look for a way to use your voice to make a difference.