Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
Foreign shipments of illegal drugs is the latest element in an epidemic of abuse in far Southwest Virginia.
Monday, August 5, 2013
News that five members of a drug trafficking ring have admitted to shipping thousands of illegal pills into Southwest Virginia is the latest frustrating chapter in the region’s battle against prescription drug abuse.
The incident may require the nonprofit One Care of Southwest Virginia to review its 2-year-old comprehensive plan to make sure foreign supplies are part of the initiative. But it’s primarily a reminder that communities must remain vigilant in their three-pronged fight against illegal drugs through broad-based prevention, treatment and law enforcement programs.
It’s possible that traffickers are turning to suppliers in India, Pakistan, China and Mexico in part because local medical providers are becoming more savvy and proactive partners in the battle. A state prescription monitoring database alerts physicians to patients who are shopping among multiple doctors for drugs. And One Care has sponsored educational forums to encourage use of the database and other tools for detecting abuse.
Ron Allison, executive director of Cumberland Mountain Community Services and a board member of One Care, warns that it would be a mistake to reduce the focus on provider compliance.
“The major problem is still over-prescribing by physicians,” he said.
Drug abuse has long been an epidemic in far Southwest. Jails are filled with addicts, the foster care system is strained and businesses have trouble finding employees who can pass a drug test.
The task is daunting, but an army of providers, law enforcement officials, community leaders and grassroots advocates must remain committed to their collective cause to save the region they call home.
Blocking bulk shipments of illegal drugs remains largely the function of law enforcement agencies at the nation’s borders and ports. U.S. Customs and Border Protection intercepted pills that ultimately led to the trafficking ring in Wythe and Pulaski counties.
But more can be done within the region. More drug courts are needed. State support for detox centers and other treatment programs remains minimal. Better cooperation is needed between Virginia and Tennessee to reduce the flow of controlled substances as well as Suboxone, a prescription drug intended to help opiate addicts reduce cravings but one that is being over-prescribed and abused, allowing addicts to delay real detox.
Far beyond the scope of One Care is the pressing need for more economic opportunities in far Southwest Virginia. Candidates for statewide office should be visible in the region and prepared to talk about what they would do to replace drugs and despair with recovery and hope.
Weather JournalNext system: Possible ice/snow Sat.