Ohio and the Opiate Crisis

In this blog, we often write about the issue of opiate addiction throughout our country. Most people know the problem is widespread and quite dire. Unfortunately, it is easy to become inured to statistics.

Just as the death of one child places into bold relief the tragedy of a tornado that killed thousands, the story of one state does much the same in the midst of this current crisis.

The state is Ohio. Recently, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine spoke before a congressional committee and provided the background to his state’s opiate calamity. Whereas the drug abuse epidemic began in the state’s Appalachian counties, today it is “absolutely everywhere.”

He said that addiction often begins when middle-aged workers are prescribed pain drugs for injuries. When pharmaceutical medications are no longer available or become prohibitively costly, these individuals move to heroin, because it is cheaper and plentiful. In time, they move onto stronger drugs such as fentanyl in order to garner the same outcome.

The end result is that today:

  • Ohio jails are overflowing with people facing drug charges and now must serve as detox centers.
  • Employers indicate that 40 percent of their job applicants either fail drug tests or refuse to take them.
  • The state’s foster care system is severely over-taxed with half of children and 70 percent of babies in residence because parents are addicted to drugs.

This is the story of only one state–a state in which thousands upon thousands of people are jailed and go untreated, business suffers due to lack of unimpaired workers, and worst of all, babies and young children are wards of the state because their parents are addicted or dead.

Evidently, Ohio has had enough. Attorney General DeWine recently filed a law suit against five of the leading prescription opioid manufacturers, alleging that they engaged in fraudulent, deceptive marketing campaigns about the risks and benefits of prescription opioids. These companies intentionally led doctors to believe that opioids were not addictive, that addiction was an easy thing to overcome and that addiction could actually be treated by taking more opioids.

Unfortunately, Ohio’s story is every state’s story. And it is only getting worse. Every possible measure must be taken to put a stop to this epidemic, including suing the drug companies. Perhaps if they get hit on the bottom line enough, they might reconsider their current practices.