Combined effort under way to battle drug addiction

AS HALLOWEEN approaches, we prepare ourselves to see people in scary masks. But we all understand that those costumed faces aren’t real.

What is real is a very scary face that’s too often masked from the public. It destroys families and sometimes results in death.

We’re talking about drug addiction – a problem that affects people from all walks of life today.

Mercer County has seen several deaths due to drug overdoses – often related to heroin – in the past year alone. And across the state there are reportedly 10 deaths due to the drug crisis every day.

That’s right: every day.

But there is hope thanks to a number of efforts to fight the problem. For example, The Herald recently reported:

• Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is pushing the General Assembly to act on anti-drug bills. One includes setting up a prescription drug database that notes when a patient is prescribed opioids. Too often these drugs can lead to addiction and some people even move on to illegal drugs to get their “fix.” This is one time we agree that “Big Brother” should be watching.

• Mercer County is setting up a mobile medical office that offers a periodic shot of Vivitrol, which blocks the receptors in the body that give heroin users a high. Deaths from heroin use have risen sharply in the past year because the drug is mixed with other toxic chemicals. The Vivitrol treatments, when combined with therapy, can hopefully provide a cure to the addiction.

• Local emergency crews are being equipped with the drug Narcan which can save a person’s life when he or she is dying from a opioid overdose.

• Seminars developed by the Mercer County Behavior Health Commission and others provided information on the drug problem and included speakers such as counselors, members of law enforcement, religious leaders and medical personnel.

• Plans are in the works to open a detox center in Farrell. Currently the closest facilities for in-patient treatment are some 50 miles away or more. Mercer County Coroner John A. Libonati, who reported 18 local overdose deaths since the start of the year, said, “It’s desperately needed.”

Just recently in Sharon, emergency personnel administered the drug Narcan to a man who had wrecked his car and was unresponsive. It saved his life. But the severity of the crisis was made extremely clear because the man was driving with his 3-year-old child strapped in the backseat.

Luckily the child suffered only minor injuries. But it demonstrates that a person’s drug addiction sadly can have adverse effects on his family and friends.

We carry stories on men and women who are arrested for burglaries or robberies, people who claim they committed crimes to satisfy the need for drugs. Victims are often mentally scarred. But an even bigger fear is that a person high on drugs might injure or kill a victim during a crime.

It is gratifying to see the coordinated effort on state, county and local levels to battle the growing crisis of drug use.

Maybe the combined assault on the problem will bring positive results – and fewer needless deaths of local men and women.
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