Awareness is key

Sad to say but a search of the word “heroin” on our newspaper’s website will bring up pages of headlines.

Most of them are police reports and court cases, but an encouraging sign lately is community meetings bringing together citizens, police, clergy, counselors, social service workers and more, all recognizing that the problem isn’t solved by jail terms alone.

We’re not saying the dealers and the suppliers should go away without consequence. We’re saying treatment and counseling can do more to save lives and cut the market for cheap heroin, which has exploded.

The most recent heroin discussion in the region was held in Burgettstown last month. The discussion gave more credence to the refrain that law enforcement alone fails to solve the problem or change the lives of those addicted.

There is an opiate task force working in Jefferson County and it’s getting the word out that drugs, from heroin to meth to abused prescription pain killers, are an epidemic.

The problem is fueled by many factors, from a lack of hope among the young to the inadvertent addiction faced by those who are handed prescription opiates after injuries or surgeries.

What must happen is not decriminalization of the drug but the decriminalization of reporting overdoses by users, the reaching out and getting those who survive overdoses into long-term treatment and the recognition among young people that one hit is never enough with these kinds of drugs.

Meanwhile, the federal government has approved yet another new opiate over the recommendations of an FDA committee.

And parents still must recognize that substance abuse often starts with alcohol abuse, which can begin in the home or at parties if the proper attitudes aren’t reinforced among all parents and families.

The explosion of drug abuse seems to have happened overnight, though it has taken years for the conditions to deteriorate to where they are now. It’s not just a local problem, but it has to be tackled one addict, one family, one street, one school at a time.

And that takes awareness, which brings us back to commending those holding community discussions. Please keep them coming.