A day does not go by that I do not report on statistics. Numbers that tell stories. Today, the story we tell with numbers is sad, frightening, and a real call for action. There were 4,149 fatal overdoses in Ohio last year. That is a 36% increase over the previous year. Coroners in the state, surveyed by the Columbus Dispatch, lay the blame on heroin and other powerful opioids.
How did we get here? Perhaps if we understand that, we can take greater steps in addressing the issue.
Many who are studying the problem say it’s too difficult for patients to wean themselves from opioid pain killers and have become helplessly addicted.
Can we point the finger at doctors who scribble prescriptions for narcotic painkillers by the millions? Not necessarily. Doctors might argue they were responding to state medical boards encouraged to make under treatment of pain a punishable offense.
But weren’t we smart enough to recognize the dangers of addiction?
Doctors were worried. But, let’s remember the manufacturers of Oxycodin argued that the potential for addiction was small. That was a huge fib, and they knew it, resulting in a fine of $630 million, but by then we were in the midst of a growing epidemic.
Alarmed, doctors wrote fewer prescriptions. So, without access to the medications, those addicted turned to the streets, where heroin was easy to get. Dealers started mixing in an even stronger opioid, Fentanyl.
So, here is where we are — Ohio stands as the nation’s overdose capital. I don’t know about you, but it scares the hell out of me. We cannot hide from this issue. It must be part of our ongoing conversations, on the front burner all the time.