As we all know the overdose rate in the United States has risen dramatically. In response to the number of overdose deaths from heroin and prescription opioids in the Midwest, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade of Michigan called on federal prosecutors from six neighboring states to meet at a one-day summit to address issues of drug trafficking, illegal prescriptions, and other factors that have been fueling the opiate and overdose epidemic.
McQuade and authority figures from Ohio, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania met a few months ago as part of an initiative by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force to stop heroin and prescription pill trafficking in their areas. At a press conference for the summit, McQuade noted that organized groups in Michigan and Ohio have expanded their sales to many of the aforementioned states, as well as Tennessee and West Virginia.
“We know in Michigan that we’ve seen a huge spike in prescription pill abuse, and then we’ve also seen a serious resurgence in heroin as addicts turn to that as a cheaper alternative for their opioid addiction,” said McQuade. “That has resulted in some significant problems in Michigan, and we seem to be exporting our problems to other states.”
All the states plan to share strategies with other regional Justice Department officials to develop an initiative to tackle the problem. Among the strategies discussed at the summit was a national “Take Back Day,” where unused prescription medication like Oxycodone can be brought to local police departments to keep it out of the illegal opioid trade. Which as we all know was held this past weekend.
Other ideas included, beginning to target high-level drug traffickers for arrest as well as an increase in education about the addictive nature of painkillers for doctors and more expansive treatment for addicts. With more education and more treatment the idea is to stem the misuse of prescription drugs and to halt the flow of drugs onto the streets.
Time for Action is NOW as OD Deaths Increase Rapidly
McQuade and fellow prosecutors are facing an uphill battle with their efforts. According to her office, heroin overdoses in a single region of southeast Michigan have doubled in the last two years, while more than 60 people have died from heroin and fentanyl overdoses in Wayne and Washtenaw County alone since the beginning of 2015. And this story isn’t just limited to just Michigan, all across the country, state and city governments are beginning to come up with plans on how to combat the epidemic in their hometowns using tools such as treatment, naloxone (the overdose reversal drug), the criminal justice system and education for parents, families, doctors, and students.