Illegal drugs and what to do about them dominated conversation Thursday during a forum for candidates seeking offices in Ohio County. No wonder: We're losing the battle against drug abuse.
Earlier this year a man was killed when he tried to steal prescription drugs from a Wheeling pharmacy. Many of the burglaries in our area, including some at homes where residents were present, are related to drug abuse. Some local companies have trouble finding employees who can pass drug tests. A disturbing number of babies born in the Northern Panhandle come into the world addicted to drugs because their mothers abuse them.
West Virginia has the second-highest rate of deaths from drug overdoses in the country, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
It is not because law enforcement agencies, both here and in East Ohio, are not fighting hard against drug abuse. This month alone, dozens of people have been arrested or convicted of drug-related offenses in this area. Some of them are "kingpins" from other places, including Chicago, Columbus and Florida.
One signal of how seriously local officials take the fight against drug abuse was contained in the most recent report issued by the White House drug policy agency. It listed eight West Virginia coalitions and partnerships working through the "drug-free communities" initiative. Three of the eight are in the Northern Panhandle.
Again, however, we're losing the fight.
Ohio County candidates for sheriff, prosecuting attorney and county commissioner were asked last week how to win it. They provided a variety of recommendations, but that doesn't mean they disagree. What it shows is the need for an "all of the above" strategy against drugs, involving law enforcement, schools, social service agencies, charities, watchful communities - and, most important in a way, parents safeguarding their children against drug abuse.
Rest assured that if we as communities don't do more, the drug abuse problem will grow worse. More lives will be ruined. And more people, possibly including totally innocent bystanders, will die.?