It took time for the opioid crisis to build.
In the late 1990s through about 2006, the narcotics were being marketed as a long-term solution for pain management. That was despite their highly addictive nature and warnings that they were best used in hospitals and other controlled settings where addiction could be managed.
In 2011 News-Democrat reporters were noticing overdose deaths seemed to be on the rise. They started tracking them and discovered 357 confirmed drug overdose deaths from 2006 to 2010 in St. Clair and Madison counties. They also found that the typical person to overdose was not some wild-looking junkie in an alley, but rather a blue collar worker who was hurt on the job and got addicted to painkillers.
At the time, the information was a revelation. In 2018, the dynamic is all too familiar.
We've found clean-cut high school athletes with sports injuries added to the ranks of addicts and overdose deaths. Governments are suing the opioid makers for creating a climate where the drugs were prescribed too often and for too long.
So it is with some relief that we see the medical community react relatively quickly to ensure the emergency room is not part of the problem. Local ER chiefs said patients are more likely to walk out with some Tylenol than a bottle full of Oxycontin.
"For acute painful conditions if we need to treat, we give them the lowest dose possible for the shortest duration and for no more than seven days," said Dr. Dan Normansell of Memorial Hospital in Belleville. "If they’re still having pain, they need to follow-up with their general practitioner."
Illinois lost 1,887 residents to opioids in 2016, up 43 percent from four years earlier. Of those deaths, 1,231 were specifically linked to prescription opioids.