Treatmentis the key toopioid crisis

Each and every community in Bladen County and beyond — far beyond — needs to take advantage of every opportunity to bring awareness and resources to the deadly opioid epidemic that is ravaging communities across the state. If nothing else, Kristy Rich’s story today on page 1A should shine as Exhibit A.

The federal government has vowed a surge by the Drug Enforcement Administration in targeting pharmacies and prescribers that dispense unusually high amounts of drugs. In doing so, they are looking for patterns that lead them to lawbreakers. Penalizing suppliers — not users — is a smart way to apply law enforcement muscle. But it doesn’t deal with addiction, which is what continually fuels demand for the drugs.

The scourge began with pharmaceutical companies pushing powerful, highly addictive opioid drugs to treat all kinds of pain. But taken beyond the prescribed amount, the drugs can also produce a high. Addicted patients and recreational users soon turned to pill mills that provided hundreds of pills with few questions asked. North Carolina lawmakers recently passed a bill minimizing the number of pills doctors can prescribe, but that gave rise to a new demand for street drugs such as heroin.

The epidemic now encompasses all forms of opioids, creating an unprecedented public health crisis that kills numerous people every day in this country. But as Rich points out in her story, the death tolls is only one ripple effect of addiction. Treating those addictions is the only way to contain it.

On the other side of the debate .. this state’s legislation may limit prescriptions for narcotics, but it’s pretty restrictive for the many responsible patients who need opioids for legitimate pain, and requiring a doctor’s visit several times a month to renew a prescription would burden low-income people, the very ill and those with mobility issues. Lawmakers should listen to medical experts and fine-tune that mandate. The state should also encourage the sharing of data with other states, and requires doctors to check the database before writing prescriptions as well as undergo extra education. Those are smart measures.

If the DEA is serious about getting a handle on the opioid problem, enforcement will amount to nothing more than another failed push in the nation’s long drug war if not enough is done to help addicts get treatment and quit for good. Local, county and state officials should be ready to find more money to help meet that dire need.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” (Albert Einstein)