Ever so slowly [Editorial]

When it comes to the addiction and opioid epidemic that has ensnared Harford County and much of the nation, we suppose any sign of improvement is good news.

As Harford County had its 100th overdose reported on the 88th day of this year, including 25 deaths among them, Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler searched for any positive development in the ongoing crisis.

Comparing the beginning of 2018 to the same period in 2017, there were 102 overdoses and 25 fatalities versus 99 overdoses and 24 deaths a year ago. Those represent a 3.03 percent increase in total overdoses and 4.17 percent in fatalities.

“We’ve been talking 20, 30, 40 percent increases, so less of an increase is positive news,” Gahler said Monday afternoon. “But we would rather have long-sustaining decreases with less loss of life.”

Amen to that.

As we have said repeatedly in this space, Harford County leaders - from the government, health community and law enforcement – have done their part to put the brakes on this runaway health disaster.

Still, it’s painful, especially to families in the midst of fighting opioid addiction, to know the crisis is still getting worse, just not as quickly.

The head of the county’s drug control office said he thinks the younger people are getting the message.

“We think they’re getting the message, they’re understanding the epidemic that we’re in,” Joe Ryan, head of the county’s Office of Drug Control Policy, said about young people. “We’re taking any positive signs and trying to build off of that because off of that because it’s such a dilemma we’re in.”

In this epidemic, older people are just as susceptible to failing into opioid addiction as young people. That’s in large part because of legal painkillers that have been over prescribed as part of pain management programs, particularly after surgery.

“That truly echoes the addiction to these opioid medications,” Ryan said.

Some progress has been made, Ryan said, as doctors are changing how they prescribe dangerously addictive painkillers, limiting prescriptions from 30 days or longer to three to seven days after surgery.

“They’re trying to address the problem because it’s just a devastation,” Ryan said.

All of the initiatives are, undoubtedly, having positive impacts albeit slower than anyone wants. Ryan’s words best sum up where we are and what we need to do keep up the opioid fight.

“We can’t take our foot off the gas,” Ryan said.

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