There seems to be progress on the supply side of the opioid epidemic in Ohio. The court settlement that Cuyahoga and Stark County won against manufacturers and distributors is a good first step. One of the things that I like about the settlement is that it didn’t just include money; treatment kits for opioid overdoses were part of it. The state, along with others, is still pursuing legal action to recover money from Purdue Pharma, other manufacturers and distributors, and the Sackler family.
The good news is that deaths by accidental opioid overdose went down in 2018 (which is the latest statistics available) for the first time since 2010. The bad news is that they were still way too high, at almost 4,000. The really bad news is that a lot of opioid users are turning to methamphetamine for a new, cheaper high.
All drug addiction should be treated as a public health problem, not something for the criminal justice system. An addict’s mother once told me that “an addict in jail is not in his real environment.” An addict in jail is not expected to do anything. When he or she gets out, the stresses and problems in their world are still awaiting them and can easily cause them to relapse.
We should have a sufficient number of beds in local treatment centers to handle the state’s needs. These centers should be non-profit. They should be heavily regulated because they’re handling drugs. We have seen how enterprises in other industries that are not properly overseen by the state have a tendency to bend the rules. Treatment centers should focus on the underlying addictive personality traits, not just the current addiction. They must include medical treatment, including drug and psychological treatment.
Because of the pending opioid settlement, Ohio has a rare opportunity to make progress in the fight against the addiction epidemic in our state.
At the same time, the state should acknowledge that marijuana should be treated in a way similar to the way alcohol is treated in Ohio. It should be taxed and regulated. It should be sold only for personal use. The DUI statutes should be extended to include marijuana use. People should be able to grow a limited number of plants in their home for personal use and not to distribute. To carry the analogy to alcohol further, we want people to be able to make their own wine and beer at home, not become moonshiners.