I am confused as to why your article on the local prevalence of heroin (“Drug Epidemic: Officials See Links Between Prescription Drugs and Heroin,” Sept. 2, Xpress] chose to focus almost exclusively on shallow shock-factor statistics and the tired words of a law enforcement officer who somehow believes that IV drug use is a new phenomenon. My dismay is due in part to the lack of continuity from your commendable June coverage of naloxone access legislation and the 911 Good Samaritan Law [“To the Brink and Back: Opioid Abuse and Treatment in WNC,” June 10, Xpress].
I believe that it dishonors lives lost to overdoses to neglect reiterating the information about resources and policies that have saved over 900 other lives since those policies were implemented — many, in fact, at the hands of fellow users of heroin who have performed overdose reversals. Furthermore, one has to wonder whether the surge in heroin-related visits to the emergency room has anything to do with the fact that people who use the drug are now living long enough to receive medical care.
Alternatively, some investigation about whether the availability (or lack thereof) of affordable substance abuse treatment options is a variable in this trend would have elucidated systemic failures that are ultimately behind any so-named epidemic. In particular, I worry that the absence of this side of the discussion did more to reinforce the stigma against people with addictions than to educate the general public.
This is subject matter that must be discussed with integrity in the press, otherwise the media merely become yet another obstacle to people who put their time and energy into preventing drug-related casualties.
— Laura Eshelman