Drug abuse a very real emergency

Since 2000, more than half a million Americans have died of drug overdoses, most of them succumbing to opioids in one form or another, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On average, overdoses kill 142 people each day in our country.

By definition, we don’t seem to have an effective strategy to battle what President Donald Trump calls a national emergency.

During a press conference recently, Trump told reporters he will officially declare the opioid crisis is a national emergency. “We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis,” he added.

Here in West Virginia and Ohio, the epidemic has been a crisis for some time, now. Acording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention West Virginia and Ohio fall in the worst five states for the number of drug overdose deaths per 100,000 residents in 2015 (worst five states in U.S.)

In West Virginia that number is 41.5 overdose deaths per 100,000 residents and in Ohio that number is 29.9.

Opioids, whether as painkillers still being prescribed with rampant disregard for patients’ welfare or as easily, cheaply available heroin, claim many victims who had no intention of abusing drugs for recreational purposes when they got hooked.

They also hurt the most innocent, newborn babies. Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, are born with neonatal abstinence syndrome — meaning they are born addicted because of their mothers’ drug abuse. West Virginia has the highest rate of NAS in the country, with about 33 of every 1,000 babies born here coming into the world addicted.

Local and state officials have done what they could to save lives. But law enforcement, education, local and state addiction treatment programs have not been enough. And just when it seems the last pill mill pharmacy handing out hundreds of thousands of painkillers a year is shut down, another one pops into the news.

For several years, Washington has been disturbingly uninvolved in battling the epidemic — which is not to disparage the efforts of many U.S. attorneys and others in the federal government who have done what they could.

But the government could have done much more — and now, under Trump’s emergency declaration, simply must become fully engaged.

Out here in “flyover country,” people are dying by the thousands. Even more have survived physically, at least for now, but have had their lives ruined almost beyond the point of rebuilding.

So yes, Mr. President, drug abuse is a national emergency.

We need help.

And please, hurry.


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