EDITORIAL: Police and community must work together to reduce drug abuse

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Powell is no exception to the rule when it comes to increasing problems with drug use in rural America.

Police Chief Roy Eckerdt recently told the Powell City Council that the availability of drugs is growing, and it is fueling drug-related crimes.

Drugs that were popular in the 1980s and ’90s are making a comeback, aided significantly by technology and the internet, he said.

In addition to marijuana, “we’re also seeing heroin, meth, we’re starting to see LSD, we’re seeing [Ecstasy]. It’s not one drug; it’s the whole gamut. And that’s very disconcerting,” Eckerdt said.

Recent arrests and charges provide prime examples: marijuana sales, prescription painkiller sales, small meth-making operations and heroin being shipped to Powell by mail.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the use of heroin is increasing dramatically, particularly in rural communities.

People most at risk for heroin addiction include those who are addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers. In fact, three out of four heroin users reported abusing prescription opioids before they began using heroin. People who abuse prescription pain relievers are 40 times more likely to also become addicted to heroin, according to the CDC.

Those addicted to cocaine, or who are addicted to marijuana and alcohol, also are at an increased risk, the CDC’s website says.

Even more concerning is the fact that the rate of heroin-related deaths nationwide nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013. The Drug Enforcement Agency announced that the number of drug overdose deaths in 2013 was the leading cause of injury death in the United States, surpassing for the first time the number of deaths caused by motor vehicle crashes or firearms.

That year, 46,471 people in the country died from drug overdoses, while 35,369 died in motor vehicle crashes and 33,636 died from firearms, according to the CDC.

Given those grim statistics, we’re grateful that the Powell Police Department is taking drug addiction and drug-related crimes seriously.

Seventy to 75 percent of traffic stops made by Powell police result in warnings rather than citations. But traffic stops also provide an important way to detect more serious problems. The vast majority of the department’s warrant arrests and drug arrests are the result of routine traffic stops, Eckerdt said.

Police in Powell are doing their part to curb drug use in our community. But that job is too big for law enforcement to do it alone effectively. It’s up to us, as a community, to do our part to help — not only to report problems, but also to be part of a preventive effort. That is especially important now, in the light of serious funding cuts for prevention programs over the last few years.

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation stresses that responsibility for prevention belongs to many individuals and groups. Among them:

The Mayo Clinic provides the following suggestions for parents:

With drug use increasing locally and nationwide, it’s up to us to provide a positive way forward for youth and others in our community to avoid becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol.

As the Mayo Clinic’s website states, “The best way to prevent an addiction to an illegal drug is not to take the drug at all.”

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