Former Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne said it best in his testimony to the Senate Task Force for Heroin and Opioid Addiction last April: “We cannot arrest our way out of this.”
And he is certainly correct. Arresting one drug dealer today means only a few more will take his or her place tomorrow.
It’s a problem that has grown bad enough that looking at it purely from a law enforcement standpoint is no longer enough. We have to think differently.
Over the last few months, Managing Editor Brian Molongoski and News Editor Maggie McVey spoke with numerous members of both the community and college to outline how much heroin and opiate addiction still casts a shadow over the North Country. While the state is making efforts to turn things around, the shadow still looms. In order to beat this thing, there is still plenty of work that can be done at a local level.
Opiate addiction is not like alcoholism. It’s not like marijuana or cigarette addiction. It’s lethal — a deadly disease that can damage even the healthiest people.
Younger crowds, both in and out of the Plattsburgh State community, are now especially susceptible to the problem. For a student at a party, all it takes is one choice — one decision to try one opiate painkiller. It just takes one, and his or her life can come crashing down at the hands of an addiction.
Seeking treatment takes an enormous amount of courage for those suffering from addiction.
But should it? Society shames heroin addiction so much to the point where those with an addiction are perhaps too embarrassed to get help, and they keep using.
The road back to a healthy lifestyle is a long one. It’s a test of will and strength on the patient’s part. With that said, it takes more than the understanding of a counselor to help someone fight through addiction.
Maybe it’s the support of a close friend or family member that can give patients the extra push they need to get through treatment — to tell them it is possible to make it through withdrawal.
What it takes is a strong positive message about the importance of treatment. Shaming those who are addicted only turns them off to seeking help that could save their lives.
Ultimately, painkillers lay the groundwork for more serious battles with drug addiction. While users made the choice initially to start using, their bodies no longer give them the option to stop.
Thankfully, there are leaders in Plattsburgh who understand the essential relationship between treatment and law enforcement, including Champlain Valley Family Center Executive Connie Wille and Plattsburgh City Police Chief Desimond Racicot, who work tirelessly to eliminate opiate addiction.
But we cannot leave it completely up to them to solve this problem.
If we’re going to win the war, community-wide support should be our weapon of choice.