Editorial: Addressing addiction vital to community health

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Inside The Taos News this week you will find an 8-page special report about heroin and opioid addiction in Taos County and Northern New Mexico.

It is the culmination of more than six months of research and interviews by reporter John Miller. The report is the first of several the newspaper intends to publish, diving deep into a drug epidemic that is ravaging so much of the nation, including Taos.

These stories are not short sound bites. They are not the kind to rush through. They speak to the reach of heroin and prescription drug addiction.

As Miller notes, this is an epidemic that is impacting people of every culture, income level and age. It doesn’t distinguish between skin color, politics or religious beliefs. Heroin is equally addicting no matter who uses it or why. These are our loved ones, our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers.

The impact of heroin and opioid prescription drugs has an impact across Taos County:

• On our hospital and jail, which have to care for people as they suffer through withdrawal;

• On law enforcement as they save addicts from overdoses and arrest them for crimes they commit in their desperate need to buy more drugs;

• On employers, who may be hard-pressed to find workers who are drug free or don’t have a felony drug use record;

• On the families of addicts – mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and spouses – who desperately want to help but don’t know how. And within some families, the addiction has spread like cancer, drawing multiple generations into its deathly grip.

What are the answers to breaking the cycle? Jobs that pay a living wage, affordable housing and support to help people overcome their past traumas can help.

But helping people overcome their drug addiction is only half the challenge. Perhaps the bigger one is stopping the flow of drugs.

That takes a medical community and patients willing to seek alternatives to opioid medications to manage their pain. And it takes telling drug dealers – even when they are friends, family and neighbors – that they will have to find a different line of work or they’ll have to leave. The drugs they are peddling are destroying the beautiful communities and the people of Taos and surrounding counties.

We hope over the months ahead, these reports will shed light on the national problem at a local level and offer some measure of hope that solutions exist. As you will read in the story of Abe Gordon, it is possible to combat addiction even after years of using drugs.

We hope you will spend some time with these stories and the people in them, who were brave enough to share their pain with us in hopes of helping others. Save the section. We’ll add more to the coverage in the months ahead.

Share your own stories of your own fight against addiction or that of someone you know.

Email editor Staci Matlock at editor@taosnews.com or reporter John Miller at jmiller@taosnews.com or message us on our Facebook page. Share your ideas for how Taos as a community can slowly, systematically, begin to halt the epidemic and treat our residents who are suffering from addiction.

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