Drug abuse problem must be attacked on multiple fronts

Crawford County officials said this month that they’ve joined a growing group of county and city governments in filing suit against five of the largest manufacturers of prescription opioids and their related companies, and against the country’s three largest wholesale drug distributors.

I have mixed feelings about the lawsuit.

It’s a good start, but only a start.

It’s needed, because drug companies and those who market their products, are running rampant across America.

“We are taking this action because the costs of this opioid crisis have overwhelmed Crawford County’s ability to provide for the health and safety of our residents.” said Crawford County Prosecutor Matthew Crall, who announced the decision to join the lawsuit. “We have held those dealing drugs and using drug accountable. We must also hold those accountable who helped to create the epidemics through deceptive practices. This lawsuit does that.”

But this suit only part of the answer. It is not a magic bullet that will stop drug addiction in Crawford County.

I’ve written before about TV, radio and Internet ads that target American families. I’m disgusted with them. Each commercial starts with the medical miracles an addictive drug can provide.

I hate them.

From a marketing standpoint they’re brilliant. They also are genuinely immoral.

This genius ploy has emboldened Americans unsatisfied with pain relief their doctors already prescribed. And that has led to patients badgering and browbeating doctors and practitioners about stronger drugs they’ve seen or heard or read about through advertising.

For some caregivers, it is much easier to prescribe stronger and stronger drugs rather than just say “No.”

Those physicians and practitioners also are responsible for this horrible epidemic.

Health care providers must learn how to say “No!”

This lawsuit does not address that issue.

I don’t mean doctors and practitioners should be sent to jail, but they should receive better training and learn how to effectively say “no” to patients who demand stronger and stronger drugs.

Many years ago, the government took a similar fight to tobacco companies … and won.

The result?

Billions of dollars in penalties against tobacco companies and a big change in the way tobacco is marketed.

It made a huge difference.

Smoking is down significantly in America. Unfortunately, something more sinister has taken its place.

The easy availability of addictive painkillers has led to our current crisis.

“Families have been torn apart and communities have been devastated by this epidemic, which has claimed victims from all walks of life across the State of Ohio,” Crall said. “This opioid epidemic did not happen by accident. It is the result of the failure by drug makers to safely and responsibly market their product to doctors and patients in Crawford County, and the negligence by wholesale distributors of their legal duty to monitor, identify and report suspicious activity in the size and frequency of opioid shipments to pharmacies and hospitals.”

I applaud Crawford County’s willingness to fight.

But it’s not enough.

I’ve discussed the addiction of a family member. She was not addicted to painkillers — and I’m not certain what started her on a path that tormented her for years. She is clean now. It wasn’t easy for her, nor her family. But the end result of the combination of her family’s love — some of it tough love — coupled with a whole lot of understanding and a conscious decision to never give up on her, is a clean, sober, thriving and happy life.

The point is, a support system is a necessity to fight addiction, and it cannot be overlooked.

The county’s lawsuit does not address this part of our addiction problem.

There are people in this community who fight every day to keep loved ones — and strangers — from dying of drug overdoses. How can you not help applaud the efforts of paramedics and family members and friends who know and understand the role Narcan can play in reversing the affects of a drug overdose.

People like Galion’s Mary Shoup have opened hearts and homes to addicts who need help, or a place to stay, or a shoulder to cry on or advice.

There are treatment facilities available across Ohio and this nation. Shoup has made it her mission to find treatment options for those who ask for her help.

She has a calling, and is as passionate about it as anyone I’ve ever met.

But there also comes a point where an addict has to fight his or her own battle.

And that’s another phase of this scourge lawsuits fail to address.

I’ve read and heard stories about addicts receiving more than a dozen doses of Narcan to stop them from dying.

I do not know what a dose costs. I do know that each time a Galion emergency squad answers a call to try to save someone from dying of an overdose, it costs the city hundreds of dollars in man-hours, wear-and-tear on vehicles and the cost of drugs like Narcan.

I’m not even counting the emotional toll these life-saving runs takes on first-responders.

Which leads to the final part of this drug epidemic.

Patients cannot be given a free pass forever.

And public resources should not be used over and over and over again to save the life of someone who refuses to make the effort to stem their own addiction.

I don’t know what the answer is. I assume the solution is a combination of all that I’ve discussed.

Addicts must know there are people who will do almost anything to help them battle their demons.

But they also must understand that they must take the first step and actually seek help and support from family members, from caregivers, from clergy, from people like Mary Shoup.

Locally, Crawford County residents continue to bear the burden of the cost of this epidemic, as the costs of treatment for addiction, education and law enforcement have continued to rise.

Eventually funding is going to run out. And American paying the bills are going to run out of patience.

But drug addiction must be battled on many fronts.


Russ Kent

Galion Inquirer