More can be done to ed­u­cate about dan­ger of opi­oids

Northern Berks Patriot Item - - OPINION -

As Penn­syl­va­nia and the na­tion face down an opi­oid cri­sis killing thou­sands, there are some lessons to be gained from look­ing back­ward to other drug and sub­stance abuse crises of the past.

For decades, the na­tion has cam­paigned against the dan­gers of smok­ing, snort­ing co­caine, and driv­ing while un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol. Me­dia cam­paigns, bill­boards, speeches, high school assem­blies have been venues for mes­sages meant to frighten young peo­ple.

These pow­er­ful mes­sages were de­signed to prevent fa­tal mis­takes of driv­ing after a night of drink­ing.

Those mes­sages are still seen and heard, and there are still far too many drunk driv­ing deaths.

But DUIs have been re­placed as a par­ent’s worst night­mare by the spec­tre of opi­oid and heroin ad­dic­tion and over­dose deaths.

A pair of stud­ies re­leased in 2015 by the Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion re­vealed that cam­paigns to com­bat drunk driv­ing are work­ing, but use of mar­i­juana and pre­scrip­tion drugs is in­creas­ingly prom­i­nent on the high­ways.

One study found that the num­ber of driv­ers with al­co­hol in their sys­tem had de­clined by nearly one-third since 2007, and by more than three-quarters since the first sur­vey in 1973. But that same sur­vey found a large in­crease in the num­ber of driv­ers us­ing mar­i­juana or other il­le­gal drugs.

In the 2014 sur­vey, nearly one in four driv­ers tested pos­i­tive for at least one drug that could af­fect safety.

“America made drunk driv­ing a na­tional is­sue and while there is no vic­tory as long as a sin­gle Amer­i­can dies in an al­co­hol-re­lated crash, a onethird re­duc­tion in al­co­hol use over just seven years shows how a fo­cused ef­fort and co­op­er­a­tion among the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, states and com­mu­ni­ties, law en­force­ment, safety ad­vo­cates and in­dus­try can make an enor­mous dif­fer­ence,” said NHTSA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Mark Rosekind at the time of the stud­ies’ re­lease.

In another study ex­am­in­ing the re­duc­tion in drunken driv­ing over the past 15 years, pub­lic re­la­tions and ed­u­ca­tion cam­paigns were among the fac­tors found to be con­tribut­ing to the de­crease, along with in­creased DUI en­force­ment and ig­ni­tion-lock de­vices.

“Friends don’t let friends drive drunk” is a mantra that’s played out to­day at par­ties, gather­ing and bars, which didn’t ex­ist 20 years ago. Drinkers turn in their keys at the door at par­ties and more likely sleep on a friend’s couch be­fore nod­ding off be­hind the wheel.

To­day the cri­sis threat­en­ing young lives is opi­oid abuse, of­ten start­ing with a pre­scrip­tion for pain killers for an in­jury or with un­used pills found in a house­hold medicine cab­i­net.

The road those pills may lead some­one down is not ob­vi­ous. Fear of pills — of tak­ing a few more for the pain or of ex­per­i­ment­ing with them just one time — has not been drilled into the minds of young peo­ple.

Last week, Gov. Tom Wolf de­clared the state’s opi­oid ad­dic­tion epi­demic a pub­lic health emer­gency and pledged state re­sources to com­bat it.

The dec­la­ra­tion in­cluded 13 ini­tia­tives to bol­ster state and lo­cal re­sponse for stronger mon­i­tor­ing to prevent pre­scrip­tion abuse, im­proved im­me­di­ate re­sponse to over­doses and im­proved tools to save lives, and bet­ter ac­cess to treat­ment cen­ters.

Sim­i­larly in New Jersey, the ReachNJ cam­paign has blan­keted the re­gion with a mes­sage that drug use re­quires help and that help is avail­able.

These are crit­i­cal and vi­tally im­por­tant steps to save lives and re­store hope to fam­i­lies.

But there is another cam­paign that should be waged to bat­tle the in­sid­i­ous threat of opi­oid abuse and heroin ad­dic­tion: A pub­lic re­la­tions and ed­u­ca­tion cam­paign that high­lights the risks of pill abuse.

In ad­di­tion to the proac­tive and life-sav­ing ini­tia­tives for treat­ment, we sug­gest the state, and the na­tion, wage a cam­paign aimed at stop­ping young peo­ple from ever tak­ing that first or that ex­tra pill.

If the mes­sage broad­cast, re­peated and printed count­less times about drink­ing and driv­ing took hold with a gen­er­a­tion, then a sim­i­lar mes­sage about pre­scrip­tion opi­oids may have an ef­fect on a new gen­er­a­tion.

“Friends don’t let friends pop pain-killers.” When that mes­sage is taken to heart, when peer pres­sure works against drug use, there may be some hope at end­ing this epi­demic.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.