There were two significant developments this week in the war on opioid abuse, which has reached crisis proportions in nearly every community across this country.
No area — urban or rural — is being spared the tragic consequences of the horrific addiction that comes with heroin abuse, which oftentimes begins with prescription drug usage at home and morphs into a dark battle that tears families apart at their core.
Overdose deaths do not get much media attention because they are viewed in a similar fashion as suicides, but the spotlight does indeed need to be shined on this dangerous opioid epidemic that seems to be growing to the youngest and most influential among us.
It was reported this week that the Maryland Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 7.4% of Worcester County 12th graders reported having used heroin. If there are 500 seniors set to graduate this year in Worcester County schools, it means 37 have tried heroin by the age of 18 years old. The percentage in reality is probably higher, considering some teens were likely unwilling to admit it despite the anonymity of the survey.
That disturbing fact was one of many released during Tuesday’s press conference launching the “Decisions Matter” opioid awareness campaign, the result of an Opioid Awareness Task Force that was convened. The effort seeks to keep this issue in the forefront through television commercials, billboards and other means to educate parents about the dangers as well as hopefully reach kids before they experiment.
Within hours of the local press conference wrapping up, Gov. Larry Hogan’s office distributed a report summarizing the early intentions of a statewide task force. Ten recommendations were listed, including incorporating heroin and opioid prevention into school curriculum; a faith-based addiction treatment database; an Overdose Awareness Week; a video PSA campaign; and more.
The report from the state also includes the announcement of new funding specifically aimed at expanding access to treatment and care for those fighting the addiction. The idea being people cannot beat heroin addiction alone. It will take a support system comprised of professional experts, family and friends to overcome.
All of the announcements this week should be welcome news because this is the biggest social and health issue facing communities today. Parents are losing their children to this battle and parents of young kids are constantly in fear of how to shield their little ones and keep them on the appropriate path. It’s frightening.
These programs are a start and a move in the right direction. The campaigns will not reach everyone and their overall success will be difficult to measure. However, the only non-option is to do nothing and it’s nice to see coordinated efforts underway between law enforcement and health officials. Even more organization and funding will be required to keep battling this dark danger in our society. It’s worthwhile to allocate more time and significant resources to combat this epidemic across the state.