It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Today in Ohio, we are spending an increasing amount of state and local resources on the tragic problem of heroin addiction. Sadly, much of our efforts are being devoted to those who are already wrestling with the problem of addiction.
For many Ohioans, addiction begins when legitimately prescribed narcotics are either misused or fall into the wrong hands. Once addicted, the body’s physical and psychological dependence often leads the user to pursue alternatives, such as heroin, which are significantly cheaper and, unfortunately, widely available. The rate of death caused by accidental drug overdose has increased by more than 400 percent since 2000. Drug overdoses claim the lives of five Ohioans each and every day.
Those struggling with addiction face a long road to recovery, which requires the help of a dedicated team of addiction specialists, mental health counselors and physicians all working together. The outlook for individuals already addicted is grim without proper intervention and treatment. Many here in our own community have experienced great success thanks to the efforts of professionals at the Tri-County Board of Recovery and Mental Health and the various Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Recovery Services resources serving the residents of Miami, Montgomery, Darke, Shelby and Preble counties.
State and local treatment and recovery services are making progress in saving lives, but adequate services come at a high cost for Ohio’s taxpayers. The opiate epidemic is a war that must be fought on multiple fronts. Gaining a foothold requires innovation, determination, persistence and, most importantly, prevention.
In light of the growing prevalence of heroin in our communities, conversations with our children about drugs must take place earlier and more often than ever before. These discussions must begin at home and then be reinforced in our schools. Ohio’s “Start Talking!” program provides helpful resources and suggestions for parents on approaching the topic of drug use with their children. For more information, check out the Start Talking! website at StartTalking.ohio.gov. Children of parents who talk to their teens about drugs are up to 50 percent less likely to use.
Despite our best efforts at home, effective drug prevention programs in the classroom also play an important role in curbing addiction. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine recently formed the Joint Student Committee on Drug Use Prevention Education, which is made up of legislators, law enforcements professionals, educators and drug prevention and treatment specialists who are dedicated to reexamining drug use prevention education offered in Ohio’s schools. Ohio’s General Assembly will continue to support drug prevention programs and other initiatives aimed at preempting addiction before it takes root.
No one silver bullet will end this epidemic. As the rate of death from accidental overdose continues to rise, we must join with our neighbors to do everything we can to reclaim Ohio from opiate addiction, beginning with our efforts to prevent another generation of young Ohioans from becoming users.
Sen. Bill Beagle serves the people of Ohio’s 5th Senate District, which includes Miami and Preble counties as well as portions of Montgomery and Darke Counties. Learn more at www.OhioSenate.gov/Beagle.