February 22, 2016

Tragic tales of pain pill addiction | Charleston Gazette-Mail

Everyone knows that West Virginia has America’s worst rate of opioid overdose deaths. President Obama came to Charleston to spotlight the deadly pain pill menace. Police and health departments frantically seek safeguards, and administer naloxone to save some victims.

To show the reality, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has been reading victim letters on the floor of the U.S. Senate in Washington.

The first was from a young Beckley teacher who said her mother’s painkiller addiction wrecked the family’s life when the daughter was in fifth grade.

“My grandma and I would drive around and search for her car. We would eventually find her passed out in one of her ‘friends’ house,” the teacher wrote. “…She went to rehab and jail several times…. When I was in ninth grade, my mom went to jail for stealing.”

After the daughter married and had a baby by cesarean section, her mother stole her pain pills, and later was found near death from an overdose. “The only thing worse than not having a mother at all is having a mother who chooses drugs over you,” the teacher wrote.

Another letter was from a Clarksburg girl who said her father suffered a shoulder fracture and was given pain pills — which caused addiction and wrecked the family. “His pain medication money came before our bills.”

His desperate wife finally divorced him. One morning in 2007, the daughter woke to find her father dead of an overdose.

A third letter, from a woman named Helen, said her husband sprained his back moving heavy steel drums of liquid, which led to painkiller addiction. As his life sank into misery, he killed himself.

Manchin told the Senate:“West Virginia has been hit hardest by this opioid epidemic, where drug overdose deaths have soared by more than 700 percent between 1999 and 2013. In my home state, 600 lives were lost last year to opioids…. Nationally, more than 51 people die every day from overdoses involving narcotic pain relievers.”

This crisis is a disaster. Part of it was caused by pharmaceutical firms flooding markets with too many pills, to grab bigger profits. Former Attorney General Darrell McGraw sued and forced pill-makers to pay millions in damages. All other possible remedies must be tried to reduce the tragedy.

By:  Editorial