Now most experts are saying that it’s once again the number one illegal drug on the streets, and has been for a while. But recently it has been getting a lot of publicity because of the death of movie star Philip Seymour Hoffman and more than 60 deaths locally and nationally.

It has become such an issue that the KDKA/Post Gazette Sunday morning program had experts speaking about this issue for two weeks. The last program had Eugene Vittone, district attorney Washington, Pa and David Hickton, US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pa. They both agreed with the previous experts in stating that heroin is now probably the number one drug on the streets and that it’s affecting everybody across the board. They also repeated what two health experts said the week before about how it’s the most addictive drug out there and that many people start using it once their legal pain medicine expires.

This is not just a Pittsburgh or Allegheny County problem. This heroin epidemic is all over the country, especially the east coast. And in many cases because these people are moving from pain pills to heroin they are not your average street junkies, they are your average everyday working people.  There were 60 deaths last year attributed to heroin, and that number is probably going to go up.

What do we do?

Well, most experts say that 90 percent of street crimes are drug related, so in confronting this problem the overall picture of supply and demand must be looked at.

The demand is awesome so instead of just jailing users, addiction should be treated as a disease and users should be treated instead of jailed. There simply aren’t enough jails because the demand is so great, not just for heroin but drugs as a whole.

Many studies say a higher percentage of people get high in the US than any other country. This has to be true. Just look at the billions of dollars worth of drugs coming into this country, as well as being manufactured in this country every year. And the most addictive of them all has once again moved out front as the most demanded, most used and most profitable drug.

So far no one has addressed the question of why are we as a nation so hooked on not just getting high but being stoned to the point that we consume such a high level of drugs, legal and illegal, with no regard to addiction or what it’s doing to our bodies. This is why many experts are saying that drug addiction or drug usage must be treated as a disease. If this were the case, then all drugs would have to be decriminalized.

I think disease is taking it too far. Addiction yes, but a disease is something you have no control over when you contract it. Drugs, including alcohol, are a choice. Most people know the consequences before they use it.

Many experts are saying that the heroin problem is becoming so big that if nothing is done about it, it will at some point affect all of our lives either directly or indirectly through one of our relatives, or friends being hooked on it. They are saying that it’s at a crisis level, right now but only makes the news when a celebrity dies from it.

I’ve always been for decriminalizing drugs The focus must be directed toward educating people about all the drugs out there legal and illegal, and finding alternatives to drugs in facing all the many problems and challenges of the world in which we live.

Drug education should be a part of the curriculum at all schools, so our young people at least know what drugs can do to the body and especially the mind.

(Ulish Carter is the managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier.)

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