Lou Duran’s son suffered a high school sports injury and was prescribed 90 pills for the pain. The young man escalated his addiction to heroin in college. He overdosed and died.
Local authorities conducted a multi-agency heroin sweep a year ago that yielded 35 suspects. Two have since died: one overdosed and the other was murdered.
Exactly five years ago, the News-Democrat conducted an investigation into overdose deaths and found 357 deaths during the five years up to 2011 in St. Clair and Madison counties. The majority were opioid deaths, with middle-aged abusers who started out with painkiller prescriptions for work injuries.
So here we are in 2016 with a significant social issue and opioid deaths mounting among sons, daughters and parents — 12,903 opioid deaths in Illinois since 2006. Blame is being assessed. Bills are being written. Government money is being distributed.
Should the pharmaceutical industry shoulder blame because they handed $5.15 million to Illinois politicians? The cause and effect is thin in The Associated Press investigation into the matter. Pharmaceutical companies use donations to get lawmaker access to further their business interests, but it’s hard to believe those interests are to create addicts.
Should doctors be blamed because they order 30 pills and authorize multiple refills following surgeries? Well, they’ve started policing themselves with a 9 percent drop in Illinois opioid prescriptions from 2013 to 2015, putting us well below the national average.
The one clear issue seems to be making naloxone readily available, so the antidote to an opioid overdose can be available to give people a second chance. Walgreens now carries it and emergency personnel are getting greater access.
The opioid problem is old, complex and has defied solution for nearly as long as it has existed. Society can create rules and limits, it can put money towards treatment, but personal responsibility is at the heart of these solutions and the most effective cure.
Doctors giving out fewer pills, patients being cautious about the number of pills they take and addicts choosing to get sober and accept the help they need all are more effective than another well-funded, well-intentioned but ultimately misdirected and flawed government bureaucracy.