Addiction Is Preventable

The New York Times, Opinion Pages, Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

Heroin Doesn’t Have to Be a Killer,” by Nicholas Kristof (column, June 7), concluded that heroin addiction is a pervasive health issue affecting millions of families.

But addiction is not only a treatable disease; it is also one that can be prevented.

Prevention is a critical component to turning the tide on heroin and prescription-drug addictions. But we must first insist upon an infrastructure that positions addiction as a public health issue, and gives us a forum for change, rather than a debate around substance abuse shadowed in stigma.

The government safety net we once all relied on has been decimated. Federal prevention programs have been zeroed out, and lessons in drug prevention are no longer covered in many schools.

With prevention programs that have all but disappeared, one place to start is with the family, providing education and resources so parents can feel empowered to talk about drugs, including prescription drugs, with their children.

And families can take action by securing prescription medicines in their homes and safely disposing of unused or expired quantities. But we know the responsibility is not all on them.

The responsibility is on all of us.

For medical providers, it may be greater prescriber education. For others, it is a focus on effective treatment. For pharmaceutical companies, it can be a charge to create abuse-deterrent formulations. All are critical if we are going to work together to prevent addiction.

MARCIA LEE TAYLOR
New York

The writer is interim president and chief executive of Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.