Drug problem isn’t going away any time soon

Last week’s announcement from the Minot Police Department that a dangerous mix of fentanyl and heroin was circulating in the underground market around town was an alarming one, but not one that should surprise the observant.

The addiction challenge in Minot and the region isn’t going away anytime soon. While leaders from Bismarck through those in Minot have begun to address the issue, some residents are still either in denial or else still believe a number of addition myths. Making progress as a state and as a community is going to take a concerted public effort supported by an informed populace.

Let’s dispel some common myths.

Addiction is a moral/character issue. Wrong. More and more, experts are recognizing that the root of much opioid addiction is prescription opioid painkillers, generally prescribed by well-meaning doctors. Once a body becomes used to opioids and then suddenly stops taking them, the hunger for relief – to just achieve baseline “normal” – is incredibly, tangibly powerful.

Our drug problem stems from out of towners. Statistics say that the bulk of new residents attracted by the oil boom have left. Meanwhile the drug problem continues to worsen. Other communities, also removed from major cities and also generally rural, have developed the same problem in the same time frame without there having been any recent influx of out of towners. More likely is that the challenges of the 21st century have finally reached here.

Addiction is a law enforcement issue. Wrong. Crimes committed resulting from drug addiction are law enforcement issues. It is unfair to expect law enforcement to solely address this challenge. Minot police enjoy strong, ethical leadership and are better prepared to deal with this challenge than many departments its size. However, there is no evidence that jailing addicts provides any benefit to a community. Even those who disagree cannot deny that the cost is astronomical.

Government can solve the problem. No. U.S. history is pretty light when it comes to government solving problems. How’s that war on drugs going? Even when it comes to the Civil Rights Movement, government really just reflected (finally) the tremendous efforts of churches and ministers around the country. Government can provide funding, but beyond that, the pattern is that a huge bureaucracy of government employees would be the only ones benefiting from government administration of another massive campaign to address a problem. It will take a holistic approach encompassing numerous disciplines, public and private sector, to have a chance at making a real impact on this frightening challenge.

Once we begin to accept the complexities of the addiction challenge, then it is a matter of finding the will to move ahead addressing it. Finding that will is essential. There is no reason to believe, as of now, that the problem won’t continue to worsen.