The capture of Jaoquin Guzman won applause for Mexican and American authorities who increasingly have joined together to combat drug trafficking. They nabbed the head of the Sinaloa cartel, a global, multibillion-dollar criminal operation, in a resort town over the weekend in Mexico. What they know well is that no matter the role of Guzman, and even if he cooperates, his organization has been built to endure.
So, little likely will change from the supply side in the towns and cities where cartel customers reside, including Akron, Cleveland and other Ohio communities struggling to cope with a heroin epidemic, deaths from overdoses climbing.
In his State of the State address, John Kasich pointed to the launch of Start Talking, a program to build awareness among young people about the risks of falling into drugs. The governor also offered a striking image of the powerful hold of heroin, the rehab so difficult, “like having an alligator chase you around in your living room.” In Summit County and elsewhere, medical professionals, social agencies and families have been rallying to the cause, doing what they can with limited resources.
Of late, they have received help from state lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats joining to send legislation this week to the governor that better equips the state. One element worth highlighting allows expanded access to naloxone, a drug, applied via needle or nasal spray, that works as an antidote to a heroin overdose.
The drug long has been available. The state has permitted paramedics to pack naloxone, and doctors could write prescriptions for those who are addicted. Now lawmakers have opened the way to medical professionals issuing prescriptions to friends, family members or others in position to aid those at risk of a heroin overdose.
Naloxone works quickly and effectively. State Rep. Terry Johnson, a McDermott Republican, wasn’t exaggerating when he argued the legislation would “save thousands of lives,” relieving friends and families of heartbreak, the possibility of recovery still there. A pilot program in Lorain County already has saved lives.
That isn’t to say naloxone alone is a remedy. It represents one part of what must be a comprehensive approach, reflecting a clear understanding of what the governor conveyed about heroin’s grip. Often, addicts are at their most vulnerable right after leaving rehab, unable to handle what had been their usual dose of heroin. They lapse. Naloxone could keep them alive.