No amount of money can make up for the lives lost, damage to families (in some cases for generations) and economic loss from unscrupulous efforts of pharmaceutical companies to increase profits through the sale of prescription pain medication.

Drug companies convinced gullible doctors to prescribe unneeded opioids. This led to waves of addictions in Wilkes County and elsewhere in the 1990s and 2000s.

When states cracked down on “pain clinics,” making prescription opioids harder to get, people who were addicted began turning to even more dangerous drugs. The resulting cycle is ongoing.

Nevertheless, it’s important to use whatever funds Wilkes County receives through settlements with drug companies as effectively as possible. A process for helping to insure this is spelled out in a memorandum of agreement between North Carolina and local governments on proceeds from the settlements.

Fortunately, Wilkes has non-profit organizations in place with strong records of effectively addressing opioid addiction and the many related problems.

It appears Wilkes will receive among the largest amounts of settlement funds, especially for rural counties. This is appropriate, considering Wilkes was among the hardest hit areas in the nation

Wilkes had the third highest drug overdose death rate in the nation at 28.5 per 100,000 in 2007. The opioid prescription rate in Wilkes was well above the national average for several years.

Wilkes County’s unusually large number of children in foster care is largely due to young parents becoming addicted to opioids. Aside from the foster care issue, far too many children in this county have had to be raised by grandparents.

A large portion of a generation of the county’s workforce was essentially lost to opioid addiction. Ask major employers about hard it has been to find workers who can pass drug tests.

The best that can be done now is to use whatever resources are made available to keep working to address problems created by the opioid epidemic — and to learn from that experience to help insure nothing like it happens again.

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