Editorial: Progress against drug activity is encouraging
A recent survey of law enforcement officials in the Tri-State suggests that initiatives to combat prescription drug trafficking are having an effect. But comments from those same officials indicate that illegal drug activity is an ever-changing target and requires their constant attention.
In their estimation, prescription drugs, particularly pain pills, continue to be the region's No. 1 drug problem. But police and prosecutors from West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky believe they are making progress in reducing supplies that fuel the trafficking and addiction.
Among the steps taken in recent years have been crackdowns on so-called pill mills, where unethical doctors and their staffs essentially are in the business of selling drugs rather than actually caring for patients. More aggressive police action and tougher laws have made a difference, particularly in Scioto County, Ohio, which had numerous pain clinics doling out drugs until just recently.
Drug takeback days, in which people turn in their unwanted or expired medications to police for disposal, also have taken tons of drugs out of homes and therefore no longer available for stealing and sharing. Taking that concept a step further, several police agencies have established drop boxes where people can turn in their unwanted drugs for disposal year-round.
Sheriff Jeff Lawless of Lawrence County, Ohio, said more than 90 pounds of unwanted medications have been collected at a prescription drug dropoff box at his department in Ironton in less than two months. Police in Huntington and Ashland also have installed such dropoff boxes in their departments and say they are seeing similar results.
"To have collected this volume of medication in two short months is amazing to me," Lawless told The Herald-Dispatch. "As a result of this program our homes, our streets and our waterways are safer today."
That by no means suggests prescription drugs are no longer a problem, as police will attest. And the squeeze on prescription drugs has had other consequences. Authorities in all three states say they are now seeing more meth labs and heroin activity to fill the void created by the crackdown on the prescription drugs. Both of those drug activities carry many of the same perils as illegal prescription drug activity.
The progress against prescription drug abuse is encouraging, and police are well aware of the other activities that will require their attention. Already, steps aimed at countering the production of methamphetamines are under way, through new laws aimed at tracking the sale of ingredients used to make it, and police in the region have shown they are tuned in to tackling all drug problems. In addition, lawmakers at least are talking about attacking the underlying problem by exploring ways to help people overcome their addictions.
Continued progress against illegal drugs is a matter of keeping up the pressure on all fronts, and continuing to look for workable solutions.