Amer­i­cans wrestling with evolv­ing ad­dic­tion crisis

New Straits Times - - World -

WASH­ING­TON: Of the 2,900 ba­bies born last year in Ca­bell County, West Vir­ginia, 500 had to be weaned off an opi­oid de­pen­dence.

In Ohio, coun­ties are rent­ing re­frig­er­ated trail­ers to store the mount­ing num­ber of bod­ies of drug over­dose vic­tims.

In New Hamp­shire, hos­pi­tals have so many over­dose pa­tients they have to treat them in op­er­at­ing rooms and neona­tal nurs­eries.

And in Palm Beach County, Florida, where Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump spends his week­ends, 10 peo­ple died of over­dose on Fri­day alone, likely from a batch of heroin tainted by fen­tanyl, a pow­er­ful, syn­thetic opi­oid pain med­i­ca­tion.

After a decade and hun­dreds of thou­sands of deaths, the US opi­oid ad­dic­tion crisis is en­ter­ing a new phase. With the gov­ern­ment fi­nally crack­ing down on the free flow of pre­scrip­tion painkillers fuelling the crisis, ad­dicts are turn­ing to heroin pour­ing in from Mex­ico.

And towns, ci­ties and states are be­ing overwhelmed.

More than 33,000 peo­ple across the coun­try died in 2015 from opi­oid over­doses, up 15.5 per cent from 2014. That equated to a record 10 over­dose deaths for ev­ery 100,000 peo­ple — 10 times the level in 1971, when the US gov­ern­ment de­clared its “War on Drugs” after a surge in over­doses.

But whereas six years ago four out of five over­dose deaths came from pre­scrip­tion painkillers like oxy­codone and hy­drocodone, now heroin and heroin-fen­tanyl deaths ac­count for about half.

In Ca­bell County, the over­dose death rate was about 30 per 100,000, not even the high­est in West Vir­ginia, the state hit hard­est by the ad­dic­tion crisis.

Lawyer Paul Far­rell last week filed suit for Ca­bell and a neigh­bor­ing county, Kanawha, seeking dam­ages from drug com­pa­nies for dump­ing mas­sive amounts of ad­dic­tive opi­oids into the state, fuelling the ad­dic­tion epi­demic.

He said th­ese coun­ties had lit­tle choice but to sue to force drug com­pa­nies to pay for the present and fu­ture costs of the crisis. AFP

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