Trib editorial: Confronting addiction's deadly toll
Readers of the Trib ended last year, and began the new one, with a cold-stone sobering statistic: The opioid drug epidemic that shows no sign of ceasing racked up 825 overdose deaths from 2007-16 ( “Decade of death: Overdoses claim 825 lives in Westmoreland County over 10 years” ). And though the demographics of the victims and their drugs of choice have changed over the years, the grim cycle of addiction, overdoses and death remains fixed and all too familiar.
The accounts from victims' families are indeed heart-rending, aside from the toll on law enforcement, emergency medical responders, drug counselors and, ultimately, clergy. But make no mistake: This unrelenting scourge is all-encompassing, costing county government millions of dollars to date. And that predictably will rise as well.
No less disturbing than lives torn asunder by drug abuse are the accounts of medical service providers, who see the same addicts at the brink of death who overdose time and again — sometimes only days apart. Meanwhile the flow of illegal drugs into Southwestern Pennsylvania continues to meet demand — now with the fatal consequences of fentanyl thrown into the deadly mix.
Public awareness remains a positive step, but it can only go so far. Individuals young and old who are susceptible to the lure of opioids must be reached before they dabble in death.
Frustration must not supplant our mutual resolve to confront the opioid epidemic. The challenge we as a community face is unrelenting. Our determination to stem addiction must be no less steadfast.