Drug Deaths Skyrocket

Back when I was a kid, heroin addiction was something we read about happening in places like New York City. Now it has become a plague here in Chautauqua County.

When the final numbers are in, it is expected that drug overdose deaths in the United States for 2016 will total over 59,000. According to one news report, “drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under age 50.”

Think about that number! American war deaths from the entire Vietnam War totaled 58,000. This year, that number or more will be dying from drug overdoses in the United States. It is a war that every year is being waged on our own soil.

Most of us probably know families who either have loved ones on drugs or have experienced a death caused by a drug overdose. What we know now is that this is not just a Chautauqua County problem — it is a national crisis. Alcoholism, as I understand it, tends to primarily affect a certain percentage of the population. Drug addiction, on the other hand, can affect anyone. Young people are especially vulnerable.

How do people get hooked and descend into this black hole? A lot of “reasons” can be given including personal trauma or getting addicted to prescription pain pills. Human beings are frail. Drugs that make you “feel good” can be the Pied Piper that leads you to your death. Once you start injecting drugs, your slide into oblivion becomes nearly irreversible.

“Users” also have to be supplied and that side of the darkness means that people looking to make easy money will provide the drugs. Every day the newspaper has headlines or police reports of “busts” being made. The county jail is probably half full of either dealers or addicts stealing and committing crimes to support their habit.

There is no quick panacea or easy answer to any of this. However, what we can do collectively is support efforts to address the problem. Government, at all levels, needs to be energized to attack the menace.

Not-for-profit organizations like the Mental Health Association and Special Drug Courts are helping. Families and friends who are fighting the problem need our prayer and support. Law enforcement needs the tools to ferret out the drug dealers who are supplying the deadly poison.

Probably the beginning of an answer has to be an admission of just how serious the problem has become. When every year, the war deaths of a Vietnam are repeated by drug overdoses in this country, no one can argue about the severity of the crisis.

The nation as a whole is being diminished and a unified national effort is needed to attack the problem.

Rolland Kidder, a Vietnam veteran, is a Stow resident.