Very early last Sunday morning, Wheeling police were called to a home where a naked man was trying to destroy a porch railing. Apparently he had ingested a drug known by the street name "bath salts." After taking him to the hospital, officers had to return to restrain him while he was being treated.
A few weeks before that, Ohio County sheriff's deputies had to deal with a 15-year-old boy wandering around with no pants. He, too, had used "bath salts."
On Tuesday night, an Oak Hill, W.Va., man under the influence of some drug killed a State Police corporal and wounded three other men, one very seriously. Later, he was killed in a shoot-out with sheriff's deputies. His family and friends said drug abuse made him "a different person."
Virtually every law enforcement agency in West Virginia has case files including similar stories of erratic, often dangerous behavior by people under the influence of drugs - often relatively new synthetics that pushers hope can be sold "under the radar."
Clearly, the Mountain State is in the midst of a crisis involving illegal drugs. Our area is one of the centers of such activity.
Last week, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced a $7.5 million state program to battle substance abuse. It is to include drug treatment centers in every region of the state. A crisis stabilization and detoxification unit, along with a regional women's recovery unit, are slated to serve Brooke, Hancock, Ohio, Marshall and Wetzel counties. A child and adolescent treatment facility is planned for Tyler and several other counties.
Also this week, federal officials announced a new initiative for Brooke, Hancock, Ohio and Marshall counties. In doing so, they designated this a "high-intensity drug trafficking area."
Area residents and law enforcement officials already knew that. They also understood, again because of the nature of drug abuse cases they are handling, the crisis in which we are involved.
Local, state and federal resources should be poured into the fight against drug abuse in West Virginia. That includes programs to rehabilitate users as well as to punish pushers severely. Otherwise, the problem will escalate - and more people will have their lives wrecked and, quite possibly, ended.