Opioid epidemic showing no signs of stopping

Last week, a young Warren mother was sentenced to serve 30 months in prison after her two toddlers ate heroin last February and had to be revived with an opiate antidote.

The drugs apparently had been on the kitchen table in her Randolph Street home when the unsupervised kids, ages 9 months and 21 months at the time, found and ingested them. A jury convicted Carlisa Davis, the 19-year-old mother, on two counts of child endangering.

Trumbull County Assistant Prosecutor Diane Barber had pushed for a far tougher sentence — the maximum of six years — because it is her job to stand up for the rights of innocent children, especially those who can’t speak for themselves. Barber had pointed out in her sentencing memorandum that while Davis and her children were at the hospital, the mother at first kept silent about the fact that her children had ingested the drug.

“Not only did her failure to provide critical information result in the delayed treatment of her children, but it also resulted in police officers, firefighters and the gas company responding to her residence to investigate possible carbon monoxide exposure,” Barber told Trumbull Common Pleas Judge W. Wyatt McKay.

Right around the same time last week, a 10-month-old baby girl in northeastern Massachusetts, just north of Boston, had to be revived after she was exposed to the opiate drug fentanyl. She had to be resuscitated, not once, but twice after emergency crews were called to the house for a child not breathing. After the baby arrived by helicopter at a Boston hospital it was finally determined that her tiny body contained the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl, according to the Associated Press.

In each case, these mothers withheld pertinent information from medical crews until doctors could ascertain for themselves what might be wrong with the kids and provide the help they needed.

The good news is that it appears, amazingly, all three children in these two instances will recover.

Then there is the example of last year’s case from Columbiana County. You’ve probably seen the photos and footage of the Columbiana County couple passed out of opioid overdoses in their vehicle while their children sit alertly in the back seat, seemingly undaunted by the scenario that they apparently had become accustomed to.

These are all signs that this horrible opioid drug epidemic is showing no signs of stopping. It’s one that is facing poor inner city areas as much as affluent suburbs and even rural communities. As we’ve written so often in the pages of this newspaper, we know much of the addiction stems from legally obtained opioids, first prescribed to provide relief of severe chronic pain. The drugs’ addictive nature has led many users to become drug abusers as they turn to street drugs like heroin after scripts run out.

That’s true, but not always the case. Some addictions come because drug traffickers push the drugs on their regular buyers. Opioids are highly addictive, and the pushers know it takes little effort to create a repeat customer.

No matter what the case, though, the problem has quickly gotten out of control and is affecting all of us. It requires help on many levels to combat.

Letters we frequently publish in the Tribune Chronicle opinion pages indicate that many people view this problem as one that doesn’t involve them or that it can or should be ignored. But I think instances like these prove this epidemic most certainly cannot be ignored.

Another indication of how problematic opiate use has become can be told in the 500 percent increase of the number of prison inmates who were using opiates upon intake between 2000 and 2013. I’m betting that a lot of these people really aren’t criminals at heart.

Let’s hope convictions and prison time help people like Carlisa Davis to get away from the grasp opioids have on their lives, and gets them on a better path.