The views expressed on this page are soley
those of the author and do not
necessarily represent the views of County
By Mike Stegall
I heard an incredible statistic last week, one that makes you really
stop and think. It stated that the United States has 4% of the
world’s population, but 80% of the world’s opioid use! That is
just mind-numbingly awful.
I also saw where Dayton, Ohio is the #1 city in America from drug
deaths per capita. That is just 35 miles south of us here in
Darke County. This problem is not exclusive to just us, this is a
The question is what should we do about it?
The people I meet want to know what the State, the Commissioners, the
Cities, the schools, the churches, etc., are doing to resolve this
problem? That is a tough one to answer. However, the answer
is what we have done since the 1960’s, throw money and programs at the
problem. For over 50 years, the United States has fought the war
on drugs. We have spent trillions on drug intervention programs,
education in the schools, and the D.E.A. (Drug Enforcement Agency) and
countless other agencies. After all these years, all this money,
and all this effort we have absolutely nothing to show for it.
Why? Why have we failed so miserably? I can assure you it is not
from a lack of trying on government’s part. Governments at all
levels know this is a huge problem which they have tried to fix the
only way they know how; throw more money at the problem, create more
programs, and more departments to handle it. It has totally
The reason, I believe, for this failure is a lack of understanding of
one basic truth concerning this problem: You cannot help people who
refuse to help themselves.
That may sound cruel, but consider some things for a moment. The
drug culture of the 60’s was a war fought extremely hard back
then. People were treated as “junkies,” “Hippies”, and
“freeloaders” if you were an addict. Police and agencies went after
dealers aggressively because society did not accept your behavior. At
the time, the older generation tried to warn us of the dangers, and
mostly received ridicule for it.
Over time the practice of smoking marijuana, Hashhish, and doing LSD
became more mainstream. It became a more accepted part of
America. At this time also doctors started prescribing more and
more drugs for pain, leading to people becoming addicted to “legal”
painkillers. Hollywood, rock bands, Dr. Timothy Leary, the
Vietnam War, and campus unrest all contributed to this
As with most addictions, once it started, the chase then becomes for
the next, stronger thrill. By the 1980’s, America was
already starting to see the negative effects of the use of these drugs;
families torn apart, people living only for the next high, children
losing parents, parents losing children, lost jobs and wages, divorces,
and the Government taking the responsibility to fix the problem.
In reaction to the cry of the people to fix the epidemic, the
government threw the D.E.A. and other agencies at the problem, created
programs, funded clinics, and stiffened laws for drug abuse.
The vicious cycle, the use of harder and more dangerous drugs by
people, the government reacting as always by throwing more money and
programs at the problem, and the more casual acceptance of the public,
continues to this day. The stigma that you are a “druggie” or a
“junkie” or “loser” is no longer there. This tactic is not
The question then is how do we fix this? How do we as a nation
get ourselves out of this mess? There is only one answer to the
problem. The only one that works: addicts and users have to hit rock
bottom, and take responsibility for themselves before the problem is
resolved, period! They have to change, not us. We can
do everything possible, and we have, to help the addicted, but if they
do not want the help, nor care about themselves or anyone else, the
effort, money, education, programs, and clinics will not do a damn bit
A good case in point is Naloxone, or more commonly, Narcan. We
have created a drug to bring users back from death when they
overdose. Narcan was first authorized for use by law enforcement
and emergency personnel. You can now buy it on Amazon, E-Bay, and over
the counter! It was a good idea gone terribly wrong. Now, we are
seeing users being saved 7, 8, 9 times, often all in the same
day! Addicts, friends of addicts, and Mom and Dad users are
buying it for the kids who are also users and shooting up with them,
and then bringing each other back, just to do it again!
This is madness! We are not helping, we are enabling! These
people need to help themselves because there is nothing we can do for
them. They must take responsibility for their own
actions. This is the reality. The cost in dollars and
human capital is staggering, and we are seeing no positive
results. It is not a good feeling when you want to help people,
and you fail because they refuse to help themselves.
Most of us are good citizens, and neighbors who want the best for our
families, friends, and our communities. It saddens us when a
person we know goes wrong. People instinctively want to
help. It is our nature. Unfortunately, we cannot help those
who refuse to help themselves. We will continue with the Clinics,
programs, drug enforcement, and other assistance for those who need
However, the only way the drug problem is truly resolved is by the
users and addicts themselves who finally decide enough is enough.
We can, and will, help them, but addicts that never reach that
conclusion, sadly, are lost no matter what we do.