Editorial cartoon

Last week, the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy released the 2018 statistics showing the number of overdose deaths at the county level.

For the most part, the numbers are down in Eastern Kentucky, the statistics show, from where they were in 2012. That is true in Floyd County, as well, where we’ve seen a nearly steady decline in deaths from overdoses over the past several years.

According to the data, since 2014, when the county saw 21 people die from overdoses, the number has fallen to 11 deaths in 2018. 

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that 11 people died last year of a most likely preventable set of circumstances.

Some progress has been made. Police and law enforcement have undoubtedly made a dent in the illegal trafficking and trade in many of the drugs of abuse, which lead to overdoses — particularly in the area of prescription opiates.

That has led to a reduced accessibility to these drugs, which has had a definite impact.

There’s also the increase in access, especially locally, to rehabilitation programs, intended to help those who are addicted to these substances, which is helping to drive down the number of overdoses. Added to that is the increasing access to naloxone, a drug that can stop the effects of an opiate overdose if administered to the overdosing person quickly enough.

All of these things working together have reduced the number of deaths we saw as a result of the drug problem, but we’re not yet where we want to be.

In other words, we’re glad the numbers are down, but until we reach zero, we won’t be satisfied. 

Each number in this report represents a person whose life was unnecessarily cut short, likely because of an accidental overdose taken in an attempt to feed an addiction. Their families and friends are left behind to suffer and the potential they held is snuffed out forever.

Overdoses leave parents childless and children without parents, and many of the deaths are avoidable.

While we as a state should take time to recognize the 15 percent decrease in overdose deaths statewide in 2018, we also must continue looking to the future.

How will we continue to reduce the numbers of those addicted? How will we continue to reduce the damage wrought by those who, unconcerned with the well-being of others, continue to traffic in drugs? How will we ensure that a lack of access to the drug naloxone is never a factor in an overdose death?

We must recognize the progress, but as long as one person dies of a preventable cause like this, we must continue to be dedicated to fighting the scourge of overdoses and willing to do what it takes to save lives.

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