Monday, July 10, 2017

Rural Ohio editor writes in Washington Post: Opioid deaths are worse than a terrorist attack

The destruction caused by the opiod epidemic in Ohio is like a terrorist attack, writes Gary Abernathy, editor and publisher of The Times-Gazette in Hillsboro, Ohio, in a thought-provoking opinion piece for The Washington Post. The weapons are heroin and other opioid drugs, he says, and the terrorists are those who push them – not just by selling them on the street, but by inappropriately advertising or prescribing them. Opioid prescription rates increased in many rural areas and small towns from 2010-2015, though they fell elsewhere.

"Our vaunted 'war on drugs' has long represented little more than benign phraseology," Abernathy writes. "But it has become a real war, and the drug cartels and pushers here and abroad are enemy combatants. Until we respond as we would to any terrorist attack, the casualties will continue to mount."

In Abernathy's small town of Hillsboro alone, he notes that increasing overdoses are putting stress on local emergency responders and the foster care system. When parents are arrested for using drugs, their children must be placed in a foster home. But with only 15 foster families available in Highland County, the more than 100 local children in foster care sometimes must be placed in other counties at a higher cost.

Ohio leads the nation in deaths from opioid overdoses, with more than 4,149 Ohioans dying from it in 2016 -- more than died on Sept. 11, 2001. And that's a 36 percent increase from 2015, report Alan Johnson and Catherine Candinsky of the Columbus Dispatch. Ohio coroners say 2017 is on pace to outstrip 2016. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine recently sued pharmaceutical makers, alleging that they encouraged the problem with misleading marketing. And Highland County's prosecutor has been charging purveyors of fentanyl-laced heroin with involuntary manslaughter when it results in a death, instead of treating such incidents as accidental deaths, Abernathy reports.

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