I’m a retired professor of addiction studies from the University of Detroit Mercy, having moved to Bradenton two years ago. The epidemic of opiate and opioid overdoses which are bedeviling Manatee County sounds similar to one we had in the small town in Michigan where I was a pastor a few years back, except that was primarily a heroin issue and not complicated by the addition of opioids such as fentanyl and oxycontin.
Let’s face it. Every community is susceptible because we live in a drug-oriented society. We find it difficult to tolerate pain and discomfort and the apparent solutions are readily available. Evidence of that is the easy availability of our major problem drug, alcohol, and its widespread use. Yes, some of our physicians and dentists overprescribe, but they are besieged by patients begging for relief.
The use of Narcan by police and EMS units is a major means of preventing overdose deaths. Narcan is an opiate antagonist which blocks the action of these drugs at the receptor sites in the brain. It also brings on withdrawal in addicts, but withdrawal isn’t nearly as dangerous as the overdose.
I applaud the efforts of the community to attack the problem. Education is a major component and those state funds which were withdrawn from the schools by the Legislature should be reinstated. Law enforcement and the judiciary working to put major pushers and not the user-victims behind bars is vital. The user-victims need to be given treatment as an alternative, especially if they are addicted. Which means more money is needed for treatment programs.
Finally, let’s all set an example of moderate use, even abstinence, from mood-altering substances. Let’s stop exempting alcohol, along with nicotine, from the list of addictive drugs. Alcohol is a drug, a gateway drug to illegal substances.
Dr. John Franklin