Some thoughts on attacking the heroin problem

After spending much of the last week writing and talking to people about the heroin epidemic that is ravaging so many communities, here's what I think I know.

We're not going to arrest our way out of this crisis.

The key is going to be prevention, and that includes much closer monitoring on how doctors dole out prescription painkillers. We hear again and again about how people with serious injuries and pain start taking pills like Vicodin and Oxycontin with legitimate doctor's prescriptions. But too often the prescription lapses, but the patient's needs do not.

They keep looking for a solution, and too often it takes them out on the street in the hunt for a cheaper alternative - heroin. I also am convinced that we still are barely scratching the surface when it comes to serious treatment for heroin issues. That's one of the things Upper Darby police Superintendent Mike Chitwood has focused on.

And I also had a conversation with someone who knows - who's been through it. He also points at the over-prescribing of pain meds, claiming a majority of these people became addicted to prescribed opiates they received from their doctors as a form of pain relief for injuries such as back, neck, arthritis ailments and others.

More than that, he concurs with Chitwood that the 30-day treatment covered under most insurance plans is woefully inadequate. He says it takes months if not for years to kick the opioid addiction. The standard of 5-7 days of detox, followed by 21 days of outpatient help will not get the job done. Instead, he suggests opioid addicts need a minimum of three months of controlled intensive outpatient treatment in order to re-wire their brain. That needs to be followed up by at least six months at a sober living or halfway house.

Something to think about, especially now that Washington seems hell-bent on slashing Medicaid coverage.


90% of the poppy from which heroin is made is grown in Helmand province Afghanistan. Which is now under control of Taliban and local warlords. As usual.

If we destroyed the huge dam there, most of the poppy fields would be destroyed.

Just a thought.