By Richard Schwartz
WE HAVE HEARD or read about the epidemic rise in overdose deaths from the use of heroin in 2016 and the dependency on opiate-based pain-killing medications.
What many here on the North Olympic Peninsula don’t realize is that this epidemic, which is more like a world pandemic, comes from a massively available low-cost supply of drugs and a rampant, out-of-control addiction problem.
Opiate addiction has been present around the world for thousands of years, and only now is this epidemic getting the prime-time attention it rightly deserves.
Unfortunately, due to the devastating effects addiction is having on our citizens and our community, we cannot sit back and wait for this problem to go away on its own.
Addiction itself is divided into two categories: substance use-abuse and process addictions.
Psychoactive, substance-based addictions include legal substances such as alcohol, opiate painkillers and tobacco, and illegal substances such as heroin, methamphetamines and cocaine.
Non-psychoactive process addictions include all forms of gambling (bingo, the lottery, casino gaming, sports betting), along with eating disorders.
At this time, we as a society and a community are concerned with what we should do about the individuals who are addicted to the euphoric, debilitating and destructive personal effects of heroin and other opiates.
Some say the debate is between getting addicted individuals off the streets for their own protection and providing them with a no-cost combination of therapy and medications.
On the other side, we have the opinion that along with behavioral health intervention, the individual should be held responsible for his or her actions.
Appearance in drug court and being mandated to doing some type of community service to pay back the rising cost of assisting in the case of overdose resuscitation by law enforcement, emergency personnel and emergency room staff is being considered by communities across the country.
A major determining factor for how we handle this problem may ultimately come down to the cost of goods and services.
Narcan, also known as naloxone, is the medication that counteracts the effects of an overdose, and a spray version (a kit) can cost as much as $120 and $37.50 per application, depending on amount purchased (prices are verifiable online).
A three-county Coordinated Opioid Response Project Prevention Work Group composed of addiction-prevention and health professionals from Clallam, Jefferson and Kitsap counties is looking into a working plan to address this epidemic.
As parents, it’s important to know where your children are and what they are doing, as evidenced by the fact that 7 percent of Clallam County 10th-graders have said they tried heroin, according to the 2016 Clallam County Opioid Surveillance Dashboard database.
All it takes is one taste of this killer drug to result in devastating addiction.
Make a commitment to your family and community.
Richard Schwartz is a Sequim resident who is a certified chemical-dependency addiction counselor.