Originally in the Raleigh News & Observer

May, 19, 2017

Opioids may work miracles on pain, but the consequences of all-too-common addiction put individuals and families, and society for that matter, in critical condition. This is why a $31 million grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, a federal agency, is so important. North Carolina will use the funding to address all the consequences of opioid addiction.

There are issues associated with these highly addictive pain drugs that soak into every layer of our world: Those who begin taking the drugs for chronic pain, or to manage the after-effects of surgery, don’t want to become addicted, of course, but too many do. They enter a dangerous cycle, where some will wind up on heroin, for example.

Families fall apart. Some addicts turn to crime, which can result in violence they inflict on others. And these are addictions not confined to one group. The face of addiction is not limited to a stereotype of drug abusers as poor or inclined toward crime. Opioids are powerful. Anyone can fall victim to them, and then make opioid victims of all those around them.”

Credit Gov. Roy Cooper, Attorney General Josh Stein and Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen with working toward this grant. It is a monumental accomplishment.

“Opioids are tearing apart families, ruining lives and take lives all across North Carolina,” Stein told WRAL-TV. “We have got to do more to prevent people from becoming addicted, treat people who are addicted and enforce our laws aggressively against the drug traffickers who are breeding misery and death in our state.”

Any doubt that the problem with opioids is worsening is sadly answered by the fact that there was a 73 percent increase in opioid-related deaths over a 10-year period. In 2015, more than 1,000 deaths were attributed to opioids through one connection or another.

The General Assembly, unfortunately preoccupied under Republicans with tax cuts for business and the wealthy, has put more money into opioid treatment and prevention, but lawmakers could do much, much more if they broke their own addiction to needless tax cuts that help the few at the expense of the many. Cooper has urged them to do so.

The money from the federal agency is a critical break for the state. Spread over two years, it will be devoted by state officials to mostly treatment, though a portion will go toward prevention efforts, presumably spreading the word on the dangers and making young people aware of the consequences of addiction.

There are few things more sad that a family that disintegrates because of an addiction. Children feel helpless. Spouses feel hopeless. Stemming this harmful trend is one of the state’s top health-care priorities.