The opioid epidemic tightens its grip on America – New York Post

PITTSBURGH — It’s the kind of thing that happens in someone else’s city, someone else’s town, someone else’s back yard.

It could never happen here, on the charming block of 2300 Palm Beach Ave., where mid-century single-family homes dot each side of a steep street. Where working-class professionals keep their lawns well-trimmed and decorate their porches with American flags and tiny butterfly lawn ornaments.

It certainly is not the kind of thing that happens to an 11-year-old middle-school girl who, by all accounts, seemed happy, outgoing and showed no signs of distress. No one could have predicted that she would overdose on heroin.

Earlier this month, the girl was found at her family home on Palm Beach Avenue just before dinner time, lying unresponsive with stamp bags around her. A family member began performing CPR. By the time the paramedics arrived, she was conscious. She was given Narcan and quickly taken to Children’s Hospital in critical condition, and because she is a minor, no further information has been made available.

Ten days later and 40 miles west of here, in East Liverpool, Ohio, a police officer almost died when he came into contact with the synthetic opioid fentanyl during a routine traffic stop.

Patrolman Chris Green followed protocol when he searched the vehicle, its seats speckled with white powder. He used latex gloves — but he took them off when he frisked the driver.

Back at the police station Green found residue on his uniform and, without thinking, dusted it off with his bare hands.

That mistake caused him to overdose. It took four doses of Narcan to bring him back to life.

These are just two snapshots from the plague of our time — America’s opioid epidemic. The slide into addiction is well documented: Users move from legal pain killers to heroin to fentanyl, as prescriptions dry up and cheap street opioids are replaced with increasingly dangerous drugs.

Some forms of fentanyl are 10,000 times more potent than morphine.

As easy access to these drugs spreads, the opioid plague is sweeping the nation, crossing all ages, genders, races and socioeconomic groups. It is in our cities, suburbs and exurbs. It is happening everywhere, to everyone — even to people you’d least expect.

East Liverpool Police Chief John Lane is growing frustrated with the problem. Just last week, six people overdosed in his town.


John Lane

Last fall, Lane posted a shocking photo on Facebook to alert the nation to the crisis, thrusting East Liverpool into the spotlight. It showed two adults, unconscious from an overdose, slumped inside the front of their car, while a 4-year-old boy sat strapped into his car seat, staring straight at the camera. He wore dinosaur T-shirt, the only glimpse of normalcy in an anything-but-normal life.

One of the two adults in the car, it turned out, was his grandmother.

“We feel it necessary to show the other side of this horrible drug,” East Liverpool police officials wrote in a caption on the photo. “We feel we need to be a voice for the children caught up in this horrible mess.”

The photo caused the country to shudder.

And, then, the country forgot.

Politicians forgot, too, said Lane. “Governor John Kasich said he was going to come to town and get to the bottom of this. He never did.”

Meanwhile, the problems in East Liverpool are deepening.

People are dying, yes, “but the broader dangers are ignored,” Lane said. “Think of the potency of the fentanyl that almost killed my officer. What if a kid had hugged him in the grocery store? Or an elderly person? They’d all be dead.”

And what if someone with larger, more devious plans in mind used such a toxic substance in an act of terrorism, he wonders. “Imagine if someone put that in the water system. Or tossed it on a crowd. Now think about that, the dangers are unlimited.”

And these deadly drugs? Well, they are pretty easy to get, Lane explains. “Just go on the Internet and order them from China. They deliver them to your door.”

Lane is dissatisfied with Kasich, who has cut funding and hurt the chief’s ability to go after dealers and track down the sources.

He’s hopeful that President Trump will make good on his promises to solve the epidemic.

Opiate abuse kills 91 people a day in the US, according to the CDC, and much of the problem is concentrated in Rust Belt counties where Trump won big in the presidential election.

Many voters in these states switched their support from Barack Obama and the Democrats to Trump, hoping to shock the political class into noticing the problems in their communities.

In an interview with me two weeks ago, Trump said his campaign goals remain the same.

“I told people I would help them, and I will,” he said, pointing to the bipartisan task force on opioids he created, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the driver’s seat. Christie has earned high praise for his work on addiction in New Jersey. In his budget, Trump also proposed $500 million to fund addiction prevention and treatment and recovery services.

But there are still doubts about whether he can tackle the problem in time. Trump has not yet named a drug “czar,” and after news leaked that the White House was considering deep cuts to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, alarm bells went off in Congress. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed that report, saying the budget is not in its final form.

Lane needs resources to track the sources of illegal drugs, to go into schools and start educating kids on the dangers, and he needs politicians to stop saying they are going to help and to start actually doing something.

“I can give you a hundred solutions, but I don’t have the resources to do 99 of them,” Lane said.

Until then, the opioid crisis keeps grinding ahead, destroying families, communities and futures, oblivious to politicians and their promises.

The opioid epidemic tightens its grip on America – New York Post

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