By editorial board • 

When addicts and families talk all the rest of us need to listen

Following a report on a recent town hall meeting with state legislators, the News-Register received a stern rebuke for not including comments about the need for funding drug addiction services. 

As it happens, reporter Tom Henderson had omitted the comments not because he felt they weren’t important, but because he believed they were so important they deserved a story of their own, apart from those on bypass funding and political frustrations. To the commenters credit, the drug epidemic isn’t being discussed with nearly enough openness, so it was easy to forgive their sharply adverse initial reaction. 

Statistics often help put issues into perspective.

A search of the News-Register’s online archive for “heroin arrests” returns 28 stories for 2000 to 2010, compared to 162 for 2010 to 2015. Since Jan. 1, 2015, it reveals another 141 entries — almost as many as the past five years, and more than five times that of the century’s opening decade.

Those numbers are unscientific, but alarming nonetheless.

For the current opioid epidemic to be properly vetted in a public forum, two things need to happen.

First, we need to find people willing to share an insider’s perspective, and not just counselors and public health officials. We must hear from the addicts, current and recovering, and members of their families whose lives have been flipped upside down.

This isn’t easy. It can be embarrassing for parents to speak openly about a child lost to drugs, or for the young adult to publicly admit going so badly astray.

But those who spoke at the recent town hall, and pursued the newspaper for further opportunities of being heard, realize that hiding from the demons detailed in a story in today’s edition will not help communities in crisis.

Second, we need to find people willing to actively and empathetically listen. We need members of the community to discard quick judgments and preconceived notions, clearing the way for them to engage in thoughtful conversation.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, one in 12 deaths in the 25 to 34 age bracket is associated with a single drug — heroin.

We’re experiencing a crisis with young adults that is leading them to ruin their lives, if not end them altogether. That constitutes a public health crisis, not just a criminal justice crisis, and it demands serious, thoughtful solutions.



As far as I'm concerned, the insiders' perspective mainly blames others when their lives go off the rails and spill over into crime or behaviors deliberately sending them as far to the edge as possible--because of the need for constant movement sans thought.