Over the past few years, deaths from synthetic opioids — drugs that react with opioid receptors to act as pain relievers such as morphine — have risen more than 500 percent.
President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis — America’s rapidly escalating rate of drug abuse and drug-related deaths — a public health emergency last week.
Now drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50, according to the New York Times. Some 64,000 people died from overdose last year.
In Hillsdale County, the drug problem begins primarily with the abuse of marijuana, methamphetamines, and heroin.
The Hillsdale County Prosecutor’s Office said it has authorized 192 warrants for complaints involving controlled substance violations since the beginning of the year.
“I would say since I was hired in 2001, the drug problem has become more widespread in our county, despite law enforcement efforts,” Hillsdale County Sheriff Sgt. Kevin Bradley said in an email. “Also, we have seen a large shift amongst illicit opiate prescription pill users now becoming heroin addicts. In addition, in the last two years we have seen a large increase in the number drug overdose related deaths in Hillsdale County.”
Since Jan. 1, the Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Office has investigated 48 complaints involving marijuana-related violations, 34 complaints involving methamphetamine-related violations, 10 complaints involving heroin-related violations, six complaints involving synthetic narcotic related violations (typically prescription narcotics), and three complaints involving cocaine-related violations.
Both mayoral candidates, Mayor Scott Sessions and City Councilman Adam Stockford, promised, if elected, to promote city law enforcement so it can combat the problem. Sessions said he plans to ensure the police force has funding for training and equipment. Stockford, who said the police need more resources, added that two other elements could benefit the community.
“I think we need more options for addicts, because I don’t think there are enough treatment options in Hillsdale,” he said.”I’d like to see the book thrown at anyone who’s caught selling hard drugs in Hillsdale.”
Regarding treatment options, Stockford emphasized that bringing more drugs to the community — through prescription drugs that help users get off illicit drugs — would harm the patients. He would like to see more doctors licensed by the Drug Enforcement Administration in the community but not so they could replace drugs with drugs.
Sessions said the city police and the county sheriff’s department work well together.
“They share a lot of information,” he said. “It’s very important that the community works all together.”