The opioid problem belongs to us all

(Editor’s note: We are re-running this editorial today in hopes that those who didn’t get a chance to read it, will do so, and that those who read it half-heartedly, with read it with more intensity today. It is our attempt to drill home the troubling, but very real, facts about opioids in Sampson County and to urge everyone who can to spend some time Wednesday at the Agri-Exposition Center learning more about how to be a part of the solution to this growing problem in our community.)

Opioids kill. And they are killing people in Sampson County. In 2016, the latest year for statistics, Sampson had eight unintentional opiate poisoning deaths, and those were the ones that were actually reported. Neighboring Duplin reported 1, Cumberland had 45, Wayne had 16, Johnston had 15, and Pender 14.

If you, those closest to you or someone you know hasn’t been impacted by this overwhelming problem, we are thankful. But it should not deter you from the two things we believe to be true: 1. Sampson County has a serious opioid problem, and 2) the problem belongs to us all, not just to those directly impacted by it today.

The statistics we’ve already cited should be convincing enough, but in case it’s not, take a look at these staggering numbers:

• 84.4 opiate pills are prescribed per person each year (based on the total number of Sampson residents per capita);

• 27 million opioid pills were dispensed from pharmacies in Sampson between 2011-2016;

• 3,257,000 opioids pills were added to that number in 2017 alone;

• There were 240 reported overdoses between January and December 2017, with 198 of those from medications or drugs; 22 from opiates; 13 from heroin; and 7 from benzodiazepine.

This is a problem for Sampson County, not just addicts, not just family members of those who’ve been hooked on prescription pills; not just friends and family of those hooked on heroin, not just law enforcement, not just Social Services. This problem must be recognized as belonging to us all. From our churches to our community centers, from town halls to doctor’s offices, street corners to subdivisions, we must own this problem, acknowledge it exists and be willing to work together to get it under control.

That’s why we believe it is so important that we all make a concerted effort to participate in the upcoming Sampson County Opioid Prevention and Education, or S.C.O.P.E 4 Hope, Opioid Summit, being held Sept. 12 at the Agri-Exposition Center.

The summit is free and open to the public from 8:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.

It would be easy to ignore our pleas for attendance. We urge you not to turn a deaf ear to this call, or shut your eyes to the need for our undivided attention to be placed on this all-imp0rtant matter.

Whether we stay the entire time or for a short period, the key is taking that first step to be a part. By doing so you acknowledge that the problem belongs to us all and that you are willing to help in whatever way you possibly can.

Opioids, as Department of Social Services Director Sarah Bradshaw said, far too often go from a necessary medication to being misused and the object of addiction. It becomes the catalysts for broken homes, displaced and abused children, robberies, thefts and, as we’ve already noted overdoses and death.

In one way or another, many of the symptoms of the abuse touch us, if not directly certainly by virtue of what is happening in the place we call home, the place where our children are being raised and the place where we one day hope to retire.

We all have a vested interest in helping to get this problem under control and working to eliminate it from daily life in Sampson.

Burying our head in the sand will not make it go away; pretending its someone else’s problem won’t either.

Please invest some of your time in learning more about the problems that exist right under our noses and ways we can help be part of the solution. Mark Sept. 12 on your calendar and take a few moments out of your day to join us at the summit.

Together is the only way we can make the dent necessary in a problem that isn’t simply going to vanish into thin air.