Recent news that the number of heroin overdose deaths on Mount Desert Island and in the Ellsworth area is on the rise leaves no doubt that this addictive scourge knows no boundaries.
Even in communities that imagine themselves immune from many of the problems often dismissed as “big city social ills,” it is sobering to realize that someone right next door may be waging a personal battle with drug addiction.
In recent months, there have been numerous forums and health care sessions on the heroin epidemic where valuable educational materials have been shared and people urged to get involved. Obviously, still more needs to be done.
Acknowledging that those trapped in cycles of any addiction problem need understanding, compassion and love is an important first step. Society must not take the easy way out, dismissing someone wrestling with a drug problem as weak-willed or lacking the personal fortitude to kick his or her addiction.
Convincing people saddled with this terrible problem that they won’t be shamed, won’t be shunned and won’t have to face recovery on their own, is important. Everyone, not just those in affected families, can help by changing our personal attitudes to accept that addiction is an illness.
Many law enforcement officials have come to realize that locking up users and throwing away the key is no answer. That only pushes addicts into further cycles of despair, at increased cost to society. Plans to expand Maine treatment options and availability will help. But the need still outstrips the supply.
At the same time, jailing those who profit from the distribution of this poison in our communities remains a priority.
May the sadness, anger and resolve from these recent tragedies become a catalyst for positive change. Fighting this scourge will help lessen the pain that’s being inflicted on us all.