Link: http://www.htrnews.com/story/opinion/2015/09/21/suicide-drugs-addiction-manitowoc/72486240/ 

By Associated Press
September 21, 2015

For those caught in the permanent night of drug abuse, the constant craving for the perceived light of the next high is coupled with the darkness of the downward spiral of despair. As the grip of addiction becomes stronger, so does the darkness and depth of that despair.

As we find this week, heroin and prescription opiates are not just driving some to accidentally overdose, these powerful drugs are also driving some addicts to take their own lives. As we said when we started this series on the rising menace of drug abuse in our communities, this is the greatest fear for families and loved ones of addicts that the only way they will find peace is through death.

It is hard to imagine the pain that those close to addicts must endure. As Manitowoc County Coroner Curtis Green says: “The struggles the family goes through are real and painful. Imagine watching your child, mother, father, sister or brother literally fall apart in front of you. And then, one day, I show up at your door.”

While he has seen what he calls a spike upwards in the number of overdose deaths and deaths as a result of drug intoxication over the past five years, equally alarming is the rise in suicides as the result of drug use.

As our reporter Sarah Kloepping points out in her article looking at this disturbing trend, often addicts have pre-existing mental health issues. People are self-medicating, not just to take away physical pain, but also mental anguish.

Another worrying aspect of this problem is that this is not simply a story about heroin addicts. “Many of these people are on the opioids legitimately,” Green said.

This changes the nature of the problem, and, one would hope, our perception of the problem. This is not simply a law enforcement issue that will be solved by doing little more than locking up dealers and addicts.

To solve this problem, we will have to review of current medical practice seeing as prescription opioids have become an increasingly frequent starting point for addiction to heroin.

We will also have to start taking mental health as seriously as we take physical health, which, of course, will require us to be more open and honest about it. While we have grown more comfortable with talking about a range of physical health issues that were once taboo, the same cannot be said about many mental health issues.

If we can’t talk about mental health, then we certainly are far away from addressing the social impact of it.

However, addiction and its impact are rarely far from the headlines, which is why we must question what our elected leaders are doing about addiction and mental health when the coroner says that “(n)oticeably absent from the presentations I have been present at and the committee meetings I have attended are our elected legislators.”

We call on our elected leaders at the state and national level to start showing some resolve to address addiction with greater support for treatment and mental health services.