More effort needed to fight opioid deaths

September 20, 2019

The opioid crisis is beginning to look more like mass suicide than just the numbing epidemic that continues to take lives at a dizzying and heartbreaking pace. Delaware’s Department of Health and Social Services recently reported six overdose deaths over the long Labor Day weekend, four of them in Sussex County.

Across the state, in that same time period, emergency crews responded to at least 25 overdose alarms. In many of them, administration of the drug naloxone fortunately countered the deadly effects of what are usually fentanyl-laced pills or powder that dealers pass off as oxycodone or heroin.

Fentanyl – a synthetic opioid – is reportedly 50 times as strong as heroin; it kills by slowing down and eventually stopping the breathing of those who take it, as the desired sedative effect of the drug takes hold. Regardless of how it works, the result is often fatal and tragic. Those who market it on the streets are at least complicit in assisted suicide and at worst, because of the deceit involved, murderers.

Delaware needs to expand access to legal supplies of opioids so users and addicts don’t feel forced to buy fatally dangerous drugs peddled on the streets. That access, of course, has to come with serious programs to address the underlying reasons leading people to seek opioids in the first place.

Further legalization would bring its own set of problems, but at what point do those problems become more acceptable than the unabating fatalities associated with poisonous street drugs being peddled illegally? Delaware’s drug overdose fatalities have already eclipsed the 200 mark this year and will likely go beyond 300 before 2019 ends.

Healthcare industries – particularly pharmaceuticals – are starting to be held accountable for their roles in the epidemic, and rightfully so. Government, with limited resources, can only do so much. Those who have profited must take a far more public and active role to make an impact. Companies that created addictive drugs like OxyContin can certainly create new drugs that will end addiction.

This serious problem is growing, and it won’t disappear by itself.         



  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Dennis Forney, Publisher Emeritus, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, CoPublisher and Editor; Dave Frederick, Sports Editor Emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, Associate Editor; Nick Roth, Sports Editor; and Chris Rausch, CoPublisher and General Manager.

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