A remarkable element of Monday’s Senate hearing in Leesburg on opiate abuse was the focus of those working to curb the overdose epidemic.
The focus was on improving physician education and tightening prescription protocols. It was on building better systems to identify abuses in the pharmaceutical community. It was to get life-saving antidotes into the hands of more community members. It was on increasing the availability of recovery treatment.
The focus was not on blaming the overdose victims or those in the grips of addiction. Yes, that is a typical response, but it is not one that those on the front line of this battle find to be effective.
This addiction crisis is something unseen in the country for generations and is one that reaches beyond the illegal actions of recreational drug users. A broad-based effort will be required to address it.
Cutting the supply is a good place to start. Monday’s hearing highlighted ways to curb the drug’s flow from doctors’ offices, pharmacies and home medicine cabinets—not to remove the powerful pain-fighting tools from the medical arsenal, but to ensure its prudent use. There also are efforts to curb the availability of opiate-based medication and heroin—which has become a cheaper and more readily available substitute—on the street. Legislation to hold drug suppliers criminally accountable for fatal overdoses is important to surviving family members and could serve as an effective deterrent.
Unfortunately, the nature of this addiction is that reducing the supply is only one side of the challenge. Providing treatment services is another critical element.
It is the unfortunate nature of the addiction that many family members are entirely unaware of a loved one’s struggles until he or she is found dead. In cases where the addiction is known, there is little support available locally to give families much hope for a successful outcome.
This addiction strikes young and old, rich and poor and, increasingly, is hitting close to home for many Loudouners.
As Attorney General Herring said this week, it is time to get everyone talking about it—before it hits close to your