Editor’s note: Our five-part series by Josh Siegel about the opioid epidemic and its devastating effects in one poor New Hampshire county generated ardent responses from readers. Here are some of them.—Ken McIntyre
Dear Daily Signal: The first part of Josh Siegel’s series on the opioid crisis in Coos County, New Hampshire, struck a chord with me (“This County Switched From Backing Obama to Trump. Here’s What Happened”). West Virginia is a parallel.
Unions had run the state for nearly 100 years. The Legislature had been Democrat for 83 years. President Barack Obama killed the coal industry for the most part. Gov. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, even had his own coal-killing legislation dutifully passed. The state had become toxic to any business except for litigation-shopping trial lawyers.
There is a huge meth-heroin-opioid-alcohol addiction problem in West Virginia. How do you get there? Well, you also can thank the public school system for teaching a lack of self-worth. The left has ensured that children are fed a steady diet of pro-abortion rhetoric and a history narrative that makes our nation seem illegitimate. Also, parents need not feed their children because schools will do that for you.
If the left can find one thing bad, then everything is bad—except for them, of course.
This is how governments create a Marxist utopia that enslaves people. They are enslaved by false guilt, by the feeling that they are not only unimportant, but actually the problem for the world. Then you take away the Christian underpinnings upon which this country was founded and predictably get opposite results: murder, lying, and stealing.
West Virginia also voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump. Coal is coming back and natural gas looks as though it is not heading to an Environmental Protection Agency hellhole. There are those who wish people to remain slaves to them, and then there are the rest of us.—Joan Gibson
— The Daily Signal (@DailySignal) June 2, 2017
In the first part of his “Addiction in Coos County” series, Josh Siegel quotes former U.S. drug czar William Bennett’s chief of staff at the time, Seth Leibsohn, as saying:
It’s easy to say the opioid crisis is a problem of legal prescription drugs. But most of the deaths of late are not happening that way. Deaths from prescribed opioids are a problem, but the majority of deaths from those come from the diversion and illegal distribution of them.
Leibsohn’s remark begs this question: It is already illegal to use and distribute opioids prescribed to someone else, but we need more laws that will hurt chronic-pain patients?
We now are going from insurance companies telling us what is best for our health to politicians and law enforcement agencies telling us what is best for our health. This is ridiculous. Not only is it another step in the government’s abuse of authority, but also another power grab by the government.—Thomas Skinner
I grew up in Berlin, New Hampshire. Josh Siegel’s story is true; Coos County had the highest rate of alcoholism in the state. The addicts just moved on to stronger medications.
At its peak, Berlin had two paper mills and a Converse sneaker factory. I wouldn’t blame all the addictions on lack of work. During that time, Berlin had 42 bars in town. Loggers came out the woods and spent their money on weekends. Now, as the story mentions, Berlin has a hospital, two nursing homes, and two prisons.—Michael Fitzmorris
What a crock. You might take a subject like drinking water to determine which states use wells compared to city water, and from that make an assumption that the state went to Donald Trump due to fluoride. I can’t think of any reason for this article but to suggest Trump voters are drug addicts.—Charles Bardi
Addicts likely aren’t voting either way. People in these regions are looking for hope. They hope for change, economic optimism, jobs—anything that will get people working and remove the depression that leaves them with too much time and not enough optimism, which results in people resigning themselves to drugs and alcohol to pass the time.
They were fooled by Obama, but gave Trump a chance. Josh Siegel’s first story in your series ties the opioid epidemic to economic malaise and the decline in manufacturing jobs, implying the solution is not just direct treatment of those who overdose and are addicted, but rather economic revitalization. I wholeheartedly agree.—Alan Mackenthun
What strikes me as most important is the caring people who actually do something to try to help others.—Martha Tinker Robinson
Well, I think this is fine journalism. The Trump connection is a stretch, but they had hoped Obama would help. Now maybe they are grasping at another straw. The larger issue is the horrible number of opioid addicts and so many others who are doing self-destructive things. This article brings home that plight, which is valuable. Now let’s try to help.—Allen Martin
Northeastern Vermont is about the same. People tend to get into trouble when they do not have work. Democrat policies kill jobs by eroding the private sector, which they see as a target for looting.—Ed Hill
Josh Siegel has done a wonderful job of reporting this whole issue. Thank you, Josh, for tackling a subject that is a problem all over the United States and the world. Your good research validates the article.—Mickey D. Watson
If you want to curb opioid use, legalize all drugs. Cheap marijuana will win out every day. If marijuana were not illegal, we never would have gotten crack cocaine. If you make one thing hard to get, people will find something else. It is a fact of life and proven throughout history.
Besides, we have a rule book that every politician is sworn to uphold. Nowhere in it is a clause that says a politician has the right to dictate what I eat or drink. Government controls and prohibition never have worked.
The drug war has failed. What will it take to recognize this? More wasted money? More cops tempted by illegal money? More and stronger cartels? All these things are promoted by our drug war.—David Shipp
— The Daily Signal (@DailySignal) June 5, 2017
The Toll of Opioid Addiction
Dear Daily Signal: The most frightening sentence in the second part of Josh Siegel’s series is that opioid addiction is a lifelong problem (“In New Hampshire’s Poorest County, One Opioid Addict Helps Another Choose Life Over Death”). Crack or powder cocaine addicts, after a couple of years of being clean, usually stay clean. Not heroin addicts.—Alan Drake
I was a heavy heroin addict for 15 years and an importer and dealer. I have not used for 12 years and I know others who quit. The most important components are: find something—anything—that gives you pleasure, meaning, and a realistic direction for your future. And do not go back to the same old contacts and stresses.
We have a farm in New Hampshire and, unfortunately, many counties cannot offer any realistic future to many young people. And if released abusers get involved in the justice system, the system is set up so that they are required to do their probation in the same place or setting where they know all the dealers. Meanwhile, most of their friends are using.—Patricia Williams
It is troubling to us, and yes it is callous to say, but the national debt is our No. 1 concern. Before using street drugs, pretty much everyone knows that drugs can ruin a life. So for many, they made that choice.
We have a hard time spending big money on rehab (including all the relapses), not to mention the expense of emergency room visits for overdoses. Put such abusers in a jail-type situation until the drugs are out of their systems, and forget the hand-holding and kind words. Drug-test abusers thereafter; if they fail or don’t get tested, back they go.
There is some sympathy for those who get hooked from legitimate medical care: It’s better to nip that addiction in the bud and deal with it sooner rather than later—maybe not so harshly, but before they turn to crime or ruin their lives.—The Smart Cons
— The Daily Signal (@DailySignal) June 6, 2017
Dicey Role for Doctors
Dear Daily Signal: Dr. Pete Moran is correct in what he is quoted saying in the third part of Josh Siegel’s series (“This Doctor Prescribed More Addictive Opioids Than Anyone Else in the State. Now He Tries to Overcome the Drug Crisis”). It’s true that in the 1980s and 1990s, the rule of thumb was not to withhold pain medications. Most providers in the allied medical fields followed that rule.
I admire Dr. John Fothergill, the subject of the story, for his willingness to update his knowledge base, review his procedures, and improve practice guidelines on a statewide basis.—Malcolm Thornton
I feel for people and families affected by heroin and prescription pills. Many people who are in intractable pain need relief. And the sad thing is, because of restrictions, now truly disabled persons cannot get necessary medications that will help them to function for even basic self-care. When alternative procedures no longer work, it is neglect and torture not to get a person out of debilitating pain. It’s a slow, miserable life.—Irene Hansen
For nearly 10 years a pain-management doctor prescribed me fentanyl and Percocet. I followed the instructions on the containers and my doctor’s advice. Recently, I weaned off all medication. I exercise and take care not to injure my degenerative discs, and I feel much better. Doctors are not the reason people become addicted.—Stephanie Hobbs
— The Daily Signal (@DailySignal) June 7, 2017
Law Enforcement and First Responders
Dear Daily Signal: Physicians cannot avoid the consequences of their role in initiating use of opioids (“How a Family Doctor Works With Police to Combat a Rural County’s Opioid Epidemic”). Overprescribing opioids start many on the road to addiction. Doctors’ control over legal access to drugs establishes an illegal, profitable market.
The rise of cheap street drugs also provides the basis for kitchen pharmacies, which market products that contain questionable components and uncontrolled strengths of opioids, triggering in many instances unintended overdosing by addicts. Treatment for overdosing is likewise restrained by who can practice and access prescribed countermeasures.
There is at least a possibility that individuals suffering pain, or addicts, should have more open access to quality controlled drugs at a cheap price, to discourage illegal profits, and self-treat independent of costly intervention by physicians and the law.—Jaime Manzano
As an emergency physician, I see opioid overdose cases frequently, from teens to geriatrics (“Meet the First Responders Who Encounter Death by Opioid Overdose”). There is one constant: I have seen not a single case in which the addict was forced, on pain of death, to take the drug.
Physician overprescribing started many an addict. The chief cause in general is due to nonphysician control of our profession, such as Press-Ganey patient satisfaction scores, liability abuse, and so on.—David Brantley
What is missing in this debate is personal responsibility for decisions and consequences of said decisions.
My wife was a correctional nurse at the state prison and dealt with women hooked on opioids and other drugs. After asking questions, she had suspicions about the practice of overprescribing and not stopping when one’s pain has gone away. She also was concerned why pain couldn’t be handled by medicines that don’t alter reality or turn one into an addict. She has wanted doctors arrested and jailed for ignoring what is going on, and their all-too-easy reliance on pushing pills.
I am a diabetic and have severe neuropathy. I asked my doctor for nonopioid alternatives to handle the pain, which were prescribed. My pain is well under control. I’m not addicted. Opioids aren’t the only options out there.—Dale McNamee
I am surprised that Josh Siegel doesn’t detail real first responders—emergency medical technicians, paramedics, police, and firefighters—in his story. In rural areas such as this, the medical and fire people are normally volunteers and neighbors of those involved. Having been there for some 25 years before retiring, I can tell you it is a difficult burden to try to help your neighbors, knowing the inevitable outcome.—Mort Gutman
— Kristy (@luchadora41) June 9, 2017
This and That
Dear Daily Signal: Please let Merrie Spaeth know how profound I thought her commentary on fake news and the Texas Legislature to be (“This Altercation in Texas Exposes the Heart of Fake News“). I posted it on Facebook with this comment:
This is the greatest article in the world. This woman sure knows her stuff. What a great example of fake news, how it happens, why it happens and who causes it. I copied and pasted it into a Word document so I could keep it forever!
After reading the comments about the House Freedom Caucus and The Heritage Foundation, I feel like I need to send my own thoughts on the House’s health care bill. I thank both Heritage and the Freedom Caucus and others who stood up for what I voted for this last election cycle.
I voted for a repeal of Obamacare followed by a free market solution to rising health care costs. I did not see that in Ryancare. I do not understand why Republicans cannot pass the same repeal that they sent the previous president 50 times. Thank you for continued support for conservative ideals, not the fake conservative ideals of some. —Russ Colberg
Just wish to commend you guys on The Daily Signal and your work. You are staying true to American principles in an environment that is controlled by ideological secularists who care nothing about the very fabric of the American miracle. They are the Meists and have had the bully pulpit of the “mainstream media” for too long. Patriots like you have begun to erode their influence. God bless you guys.—Larry Peterson
As a former English teacher, it really bothers me that an editor did not catch that the wrong verb was used in the Morning Bell sentence including the words “Attorney General Jeff Sessions refused to lay down … ” The correct verb in that sentence is “lie” (lie, lay, lain). The verb used (lay, laid, laid) requires an object. It’s sad that so many English speakers in general don’t use these verbs correctly, especially people working in journalism and media.—Martha Bell
— The Daily Signal (@DailySignal) June 16, 2017
How Are We Doing?
Just fine! Great job. Keep up the good work.—Vicky Donnelly
We aight. I’m thrilled to finally have news I can believe.—Catherine Volpe
Doing a great job.—Beverly Manion
Ramirez is hilarious.—Frank Gonzales Jr.
Stay after these politicians, particularly Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Make them accountable.—Frank Turner
You are doing a fine job. Always look forward to your information.—G.E. Diaz