War on Drugs

Overdose calls are down in Cabell County

Thoughtful West Virginians may find themselves considering the war against drug abuse in terms the late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill used after a crucial victory during World War II. “Now this is not the end,” Churchill commented. “It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

First lady Melania Trump was in Huntington a few days ago, getting a progress report on that city’s battle against substance abuse. There is reason to believe those in Huntington and elsewhere in Cabell County may be onto something.

In a state that is the epicenter of a national epidemic, Huntington has been hit especially hard for several years. But — cross your fingers — things may be getting better.

During the first six months of this year, Cabell County first responders have answered 406 calls regarding drug overdoses. That, an average of more than two a day, certainly is shocking.

It is noticeably better than the 564 overdose calls received during the first half of 2018, however. And it is much better than the January-June period of 2017, when there were 951 calls.

Local officials in Cabell County warn the dropoff may not represent a substantial decrease in actual use of illicit drugs. It may be only that substance abusers are being more cautious about the drugs they buy and ingest, out of fear some batches may have been spiked with large amounts of fentanyl, the additive blamed for many overdoses.

Increased availability of naloxone, a drug used to counteract overdoses, may be part of the explanation for fewer emergency medical services calls, Cabell County officials add.

But, given the fact that fewer overdose calls means fewer deaths by drugs, the news is good. Perhaps it is the “end of the beginning.”

Again, the news is subject to various interpretations. Federal officials and public health agencies ought to be analyzing the situation to determine just what has happened — and to spread the word that Huntington and Cabell County seem to be doing something right.