I have been asked by many people the obvious question: “Why Scioto County?” The answer is complicated, but I will try to explain some of the issues that have placed our community in “the eye of the storm.”
• The problem is regional. The geographic area that is the epicenter for prescription drug addiction includes southern Ohio, eastern Kentucky, and most of West Virginia. As more data becomes available, we will see that the drug problem is comparable throughout the region, including the high number of overdose deaths and the accompanying social and health consequences.
• The problem is addictive. Even prior to the proliferation of Oxycontin, this region had a high rate of alcoholism and drug addiction. Thus, this new and powerfully addictive drug was unleashed on a population with many people already experiencing addiction problems.
• The problem was unexpected. Our communities were unprepared to deal with the easy availability of Oxycontin through pain clinics, entities that began popping up like fast-food restaurants once the demand for the drug increased. Basically, the pain clinic owners and a few doctors grabbed at the financial opportunity to make an incredible amount of money by selling the drug.
We saw the pain clinics open. We watched as their advertisements went up on billboards. But we were unsure what to do about it. For years, law enforcement and community agencies had been actively addressing the drug problem in our region. This new drug dealer, however, is very different from the person standing on the corner selling drugs. This drug dealer benefits from the absence of laws and standards that regulate pain clinics and the sale of addictive prescription medication.
• The problem is complicated. Because the epidemic is regional, it involves many individual cities, towns, villages and townships. This means that multiple law enforcement agencies, government entities, school districts and other community organizations must work together. Coordinating these various groups has taken time but the effort is beginning to bear fruit and we are making significant progress.
Our ability to address this problem and deal with one of the worst public health issues ever to impact our communities rests with our resolve to keep working and not expect a quick fix. Ultimately it will come down to how involved our citizens become in demanding change and our willingness to put forth the effort to do so.
You can start helping now by signing the safe, online “Stop Prescription Drug Abuse” petition at www.ipetitions.com/petition/stop-prescription-drug-abuse-in-scioto-county.
ED HUGHES is executive director of The Counseling Center Inc. Contact him at (740) 354-3829, ext. 25, or e-mail him at email@example.com.