Letter: Treat opioid abuse as a societal problem

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To the editor:

At least 40 people from Berkshire County have died from an opioid overdose in the past year. Forty of our friends, neighbors, husbands, wives, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and grandchildren have died from an opioid overdose. People with names. Not junkies, not addicts. Human beings.

Reader, you know you know someone, too.

Everyone keeps asking, "when will this end?" How do we stop these senseless deaths? We stop them by admitting the drugs aren't really the problem. They are the primary symptom of a much larger problem. If we want to end overdoses and the opioid crisis, we are going to have to finally admit this is a systemic problem. This is a societal failure. We as a people have caused this for ourselves.

Want people to use drugs less? Want to make drug dealing less attractive? Pay people a living wage. Stop accepting that it's alright for a CEO to make 2,000 times what the receptionist makes. Make work worth it. Give people a purpose, a reason to get out of bed in the morning, a reason to be fully present in their lives.

Address rental and home ownership costs. Allow people to not worry if they're going to lose their shelter every single month. Make it easier for people to build the bonds and connections that make life worth living.

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Want kids to be less likely to use drugs to begin with? Bring back the arts. Create programs for kids to have something to do, and better yet, to feel good about. Buy just five or six fewer stealth bombers and open a few more recreational centers. Create hope. Stop creating a society people feel like they need to escape from.

Stop criminalizing addiction. Stop stigmatizing those with a disease. Treat addiction like the mental health problem it is. Add more treatment beds.

The way we've been battling drugs for over 100 years has not worked. It's only been successful in creating a profitable police state and court and prison system. End the War on Drugs. It failed.

Want things to improve? Spend every penny that was spent on the War on Drugs on prevention, education, and treatment.

Gary Pratt,


The writer is founder of Smash The Stigma.


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