The Presidential primaries are great at exposing those concerns that are uppermost in people's minds. Several of this season's Presidential candidates admitted that they've been surprised at all the questions about what they would do to combat drug addiction. Opioid and heroin addiction in particular have skyrocketed in New Hampshire and the rest of the Northeast. But heroin addiction is a nationwide problem. The rate of heroin use doubled from 2002 to 2013, and the number of overdose deaths nearly quadrupled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The candidates have not been spared, either. Several have had children or siblings or friends who've battled drug addiction. Some have lost the battle. The good news? Most, if not all, of the candidates support investing in treatment, rather than punishment.
However, as Maura Healey, Attorney General for Massachusetts, states in a 2/16 opinion piece for the Boston Globe, we won’t begin to solve this crisis until we reduce the use of prescription opioids.
"Cheap heroin is not a new problem; it’s been around for decades. What is new is that four out of five heroin users report having previously used a prescription opioid. These powerful drugs are a synthetic version of opium. They’re heroin in a pill. The opioid epidemic is the direct result of years of overprescribing painkillers to everyday people, who get hooked on an extremely addictive substance, then turn to heroin when they can no longer afford to sustain an expensive pill habit."
So what can we do to protect our families? Be aware. Doctors and dentists often overprescribe strong painkillers, such as Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Percocet. Ask about less risky alternatives. Ask for small quantities. Lock up the medication at home and monitor the number that are taken. As HC DrugFree and the Howard County Police encourage, dispose of the prescriptions safely in the permanent medication disposal boxes installed at various locations throughout our county. Educate ourselves, our health care providers, and our families about the risk. We have more power than we think.