A recent report by the The Washington Post — and localized by our sister paper The Daily Independent in Ashland — detailed the flow of pain pills through the Tri-State region from 2006 to 2012.
The numbers of the pain pills distributed in the Tri-State are simply shocking. The Post gathered information for the seven- year period that tracks the distribution of oxycodone and hydrocodone pain pills. During that time, there were 1.9 billion such pills supplied to Kentucky, and the greatest number of those pills, 10.45 million, were delivered to a pharmacy in Paintsville. There were 36.8 million pills supplied to Boyd County, according to the database. That is enough for 106 pills per year for every person in the county. Greenup County received 15.8 million pills and Carter got 9.6 million during the seven years, enough for 61 pills and 49 pills per person per year respectively.
That's a staggering amount of pills. Given the rural locations usually a handful of pharmacies are involved in filling the prescriptions but we personally don't blame the pharmacies. They are simply filling the legal prescriptions. We blame anyone who just wholesale prescribed these poisons without any concern for their impact and, of course, we blame those who manufactured these pills combined with a fullfledged marketing campaign to push these pills out there on a massive scale. Make no mistake about it -- doing so has caused devastation. Lives have been lost and ruined.
With that said, as the problem is dissected and analyzed in retrospect, the scourge has already morphed into a new, deadly dilemma in the form of heroin, fentanyl and meth. The pill well has dried up so users have turned to heroin and fentanyl and back to meth. The lethality of these terrible drugs is even worse. Again, lives are lost and ruined.
We think there are a few very obvious lessons to be learned from this. First, major corporations that design addictive drugs that harm people -- and profit from the resulting chaos when they are distributed for what are really non medical reasons -- have to be held accountable. Yes there have been a myriad of state civil suits and yes there have been settlements, but those settlements often represent a drop in the bucket compared to the money raked in. Our federal government needs to do a better job of cracking down on this very dangerous behavior in our view.
The other lesson is even more important, and that is we as a nation have to recognize that there is one truly effective way to combat drug use. It is through education. Our law enforcement officers through DARE and similar programs do an excellent job at getting into schools and trying to teach kids how dangerous drugs like these are. However, we think we as parents, and society as a whole, can do more by making it abundantly clear how horrific the outcomes are from using heroin and meth. We think, for example, the commercials showing the outcomes of relentless tobacco use on people has been very effective. If you think that's bad in regards to outcomes just think about what heroin and meth do to the human body. We need to teach our kids at a very early age, as painful as it is, the very real and horrifying consequences these drugs have on human health, teaching our kids that illicit drug use is a one-way ticket to becoming a living zombie complete with prolific suffering for both the user and everyone around them.
Education, in our view, is the number one key to combating drug use.