Treat opioid abuse like the epidemic it is

July 17, 2017

We call it an epidemic.

Yet opioid abuse continues to surge through our communities, silently picking off victim after victim. When the disease was Ebola, one person was quarantined in New Jersey for three days out of fear she might have been sick.

When it comes to opioids and heroin abuse, we call it an epidemic, but there is no urgent call to action. How can this be? The New York Times recently reported that in 2016, more Americans died from drug overdoses than died in the whole Vietnam War. The toll per specific drug has not yet been established, but the number is expected to be well more than 59,000, while the total American deaths in Vietnam is more than 58,000.

Delaware is not among the hardest-hit states, but it's not among the least affected either.

During one four-day span in April, state health officials reported two overdose deaths in Sussex and 20 more patients in Sussex treated by emergency responders with naloxone, administered to reverse an opioid overdose.

We call it an epidemic. But doctors continue to dispense the same opioid pain medications that triggered widespread opioid abuse. Insurance companies continue to limit or restrict access to rehabilitation services. Break-ins and robberies continue to disrupt once-quiet neighborhoods. Families continue to mourn the loved ones of all ages who fall victim to opioid abuse.

Halting this epidemic will start in homes and neighborhoods. It will require increased drug education in schools and increased attention from churches and community groups. It will likely require increased police presence and response, although we will not arrest our way out of this crisis. While new medical facilities are already on the way in Sussex, this crisis will require that people including those without insurance have access to help near where they live. It will also require jobs for those re-entering life after addiction.

We call it an epidemic, but to defeat it will require the same urgency in homes, in neighborhoods, and at the state, county and national levels. To treat this disease like the devastating epidemic it is.

  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Laura Ritter, news editor, and Dennis Forney, publisher, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, associate publisher.