The Wilmington News Journal published a chilling story last week, one that hits especially close to home in our community and reminds us of Ohio’s ongoing battle against drug addiction. The story reported that there had been 12 heroin overdoses just in the first five days of this year, two of which resulted in death.
As the article stated, the 10 overdoses that ended up being non-fatal were thanks to Narcan (also known as naloxone), a drug that reverses an opiate overdose. This drug has been one of the greatest weapons encouraged by the state to help save lives, and in the past two legislative terms we have expanded its access and availability. But the problem runs much deeper than that, and the solutions to the problem require everyone across the entire state to become educated and involved.
One of the most important lessons that we’ve learned in recent years on the subject of drug addiction is that the problem really is statewide. Whereas the issue used to be more centralized in urban areas, today it is everywhere, from big cities to small towns and neighborhoods. In fact, two of the legislators who have been most involved in cracking down on this problem—Reps. Robert Sprague and Ryan Smith—come from opposite ends of the state and represent districts that are primarily rural.
This week, the two joined Attorney General Mike DeWine for a press conference to praise a recent report published by the Centers for Disease Control. The report, titled “Guideline for Prescribing Opioid for Chronic Pain,” shares some of the same goals that we in the state legislature have been pushing. For example, one recommendation included encouraging prescribers to try to find other ways of treating pain besides addictive opioids. Another focused on finding more appropriate dosage levels to cut down on the common problem of patients having several pills left over even after their pain has gone away.
During the press conference, the Attorney General said that, according to federal data, 80 percent of new heroin users admitted to abusing prescription drugs prior to getting involved with heroin. This suggests that if we can significantly cut down on abuse and addiction among prescription medication, then we can get a handle on curbing heroin abuse as well.
The idea that we can simply wait until the problem comes to our doorstep is flawed because unfortunately the problem is already there. We must all be diligent in the effort to cut down on the problem because the costs of not doing so are just too great.
Cliff Rosenberger is the Ohio House Speaker.