The opioid drug crisis in this country has gotten a lot of attention lately, including a multi-part series we ran on DTN digital platforms early this year. Despite all the coverage, the issue -- too many very addictive drugs in too many hands -- is not going away anytime soon.
We can make some of the drugs go away. The federal Drug Enforcement Agency is calling a national "Prescription Drug Take Back Day," in which you can drop off prescription drugs, no questions asked, at secure locations. These include local police departments, or at drop-off points at schools, pharmacies, or other public locations that will be staffed by local law enforcement.
We're carrying full information on that, in the form of a guest column from Jim Carroll, current U.S. drug czar, in our Letters to Editor and guest editorial sections. (See https://www.dtnpf.com/…) The DEA website, for more information including a search function for local drop off points, is at https://takebackday.dea.gov/….
Prescription painkillers, particularly the opioids such as OxyContin, remain a serious problem both for medicine users and for society. To be clear, many pain sufferers badly need the relief these products provide and are using them appropriately. That's not what we're talking about here.
We're talking about, for example, the Wall Street Journal recent reports that federal prosecutors charged a gaggle of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and others in the healing professions with illegally distributing approximately 32 million pain pills. As Carroll notes in his column, 6 million people misused prescription drugs in 2017, the latest data available. Most of these drugs were reportedly obtained from friends or family, plucked from the medicine chest.
I'm ashamed to admit I know of the addictive nature of these opioids all too well. To start, I am blessed to not have an "addictive" personality, whatever that means. My psyche, and I guess my body chemistry, have given me a "take it or leave it" stance on most things. I've smoked, and quit, really without much fanfare. I've chewed, and quit. I can walk into a bar and have a beer or two, or none, and walk out. Throughout my life, I have had many acquaintances who simply cannot do those things. They struggle mightily to give up the cancer sticks, to go a day, or even a few hours without a dip. Friends who, when bellying up to the bar, can't have just one. Rather, they can't stop saying "one more" until they're smashed. For the longest time, I could not understand that lack of self-control. Quitting simply took discipline, I thought.
Then, due to a messy lower back problem, I was introduced to Mr. OxyContin, and his buddy, Mr. Percocet. For several months at the turn of this millennium, my ability to function was dependent on my two new friends. I was eating four, five, eight pills a day. And, surprisingly, I continued writing and editing content with zesto. I put out entire editions of a rather well-known farm magazine from the comfort, and opioid haze, of my bed. At the first twinge of pain, or even if I imagined it coming, I'd pop another white pill and keep forging on.
Finally, my doctor -- seeing how quickly I was going through my monthly prescription -- cut me off. Cold turkey. And I learned what "the sweats and shakes" are all about.
Now, my experience was all a cakewalk compared to what others have had to deal with trying to shake the hold opioids can have. My problem was nipped early. But it scared the hell out of me. I knew I never again wanted those things within my grasp. I long thought if those drugs can sink their claws into someone like me, then others, with different chemistries and personalities, don't stand a chance.
We don't plug many causes within these pages. Our total focus is on supplying the best business-decision information for those who make their living farming or being involved in agriculture. So excuse me if I step up on a soapbox for a brief minute.
First, if you have an addiction problem, do something about it. Call a professional, call your pastor, call a friend you trust. Start the process.
If you think you don't, but you have those medications hanging around in the back of the medicine cabinet "for those days when you just need to take the edge off," gather them up this weekend. And drop them off where they're in safe hands.
If you have other leftover meds, regardless of what they were for, drop-off facilities will take them too. Even vitamins of questionable vintage are acceptable. It's really not a good idea to flush any of those things, since the level of medicinal contamination in many waterways is astonishing.
By the way, that opioid series we published in December, written by DTN Staff Reporter Todd Neeley and edited by DTN Associate Managing Editor Elaine Shein, was a finalist in the Jesse H. Neal Awards for business journalism, and is doing well in other national contests. More importantly, Neeley has a wonderful collection of "thank you" notes from readers all over rural America. That's a high no drug can give you, I have to say.
Greg D. Horstmeier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on Twitter @greghorstmeier
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