Editorial: Ramp up local prevention efforts as opioid deaths rise

Through the first half of 2018, Carroll County has seen nearly as many fatal overdoses as it did all of last year and in 2016, a heart-wrenching statistic that shows street drugs being used may be more potent and deadlier than ever.

According to the latest data from the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, there were 44 overdose deaths from drug and alcohol use from January to June of this year. That’s a 76 percent increase over the same time frame in 2017. There were 48 overdose deaths all of last year.


Overall, the total number of overdoses are up only slightly year-over-year, which seems to indicate usage isn’t necessarily increasing, even though fatalities are. That seems to be the message from county law enforcement and health officials. Carroll County Health Officer Ed Singer told us that prevention efforts seem to be slowing the growth of people who are in active addition, but powerful synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil are making using more deadly.

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be an obvious way at the local level to keep up with or keep ahead of these dangerous synthetics making their way into the county and into users’ hands. While, in the past, cracking down on drugs may have involved law enforcement going after street dealers, it’s a brave new digital world out there, and the current opioid problem is exacerbated by the ease with which these synthetics can be purchased on the internet. The Trump administration has doubled this year the number of federal agents working on cases of so-called dark-net vendors of these illicit drugs.

What is being done locally, and must continue to be done, are educational efforts about the dangers of opioids as well as expanding treatment options and availability.

Regarding education, it is relevant for both young people and adults. Reaching middle and high school-aged students takes time, but repeatedly hearing the same message about the dangers of opioids will help cut down on the number of people who ever try them. Like any dangerous behavior — smoking, alcohol, etc. — it’s impossible to get through to everyone, but constant messaging may dissuade some from experimenting with these substances.

However, adults also need to hear these messages. Anecdotally, it seems, more medical professionals are hearing from patients that they don’t want to be prescribed opioid painkillers because of fears of becoming addicted. The overprescribing of legal drugs is what many point to as the start of the current epidemic.

Finally, continuing efforts to get more users into treatment programs is a must.

At 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 11, Wesley Freedom United Methodist Church in Eldersburg will have a free question-and-answer session on the topic of addiction, featuring talks by people involved in treatment and recovery, an open discussion about addiction, followed by a training session on how to use naloxone, the opioid overdose antidote.

Community sessions like these are a good opportunity for people who may have a loved one they believe is struggling with addiction, or who may be struggling with addiction themselves, to surround themselves with people who can relate and learn more about support systems and treatment options available in Carroll.

There is no silver bullet to solve the opioid epidemic, but local community efforts combined with a federal response are necessary to limit the number of lives these illicit substances continue to take from us.