Appalachia under siege from substance abuse
Remember when training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the Heimlich maneuver were the big things in health care? When automatic external defibrillators and first aid kits were the in-demand equipment?
You don’t hear as much about them as you did for years. Something new, naloxone and training on how to administer it, has taken over. That says a lot about what worries us, these days. What it says — that having to help an overdose victim is an enormous, growing concern — is not good.
As we have reported, drug overdoses have become so common that the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia has recommended his denomination’s churches keep naloxone on hand. It is used to counteract the effects of opiate overdoses, which kill hundreds of West Virginians and Ohioans every year.
Our region — Appalachia — has become ground zero in the war against substance abuse. Opioids are killing people, ruining lives and dragging down our economies.
Finally, after years in which it was clear our region of the country is the worst-hit by the substance abuse epidemic, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration seems to be taking more strategic notice.
A new DEA division-level field office is being established in Louisville, Ky., to target drug abuse in the Appalachian region. It will oversee investigations in West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Previously, the DEA had 21 division offices. The nearest to the Appalachian states were in Washington, Atlanta and Detroit.
Let us hope the DEA makes curbing the flow of opioids into our states a priority. To date, there has been little formal action to indicate that is the case.
But enforcement is only part of the battle. Treating drug addicts, preventing misuse of prescribed opiates and educating both children and adults also need to be parts of the strategy. Other agencies of government need to target Appalachia, too.
We can’t do it alone. Our local and state governments are overwhelmed by the substance abuse crisis.
It has been said defense is among the chief responsibilities of a national government. Well, here in Appalachia, we are under siege — and we need help desperately.