Misconceptions fueled the opioid epidemic. Doctors were led to believe the opioids they prescribed for pain posed little danger to their patients. Patients were told there was no danger of addiction as long as they used the pills only to control pain. Police and emergency workers weren't being trained or given the tools to deal with drug overdoses as medical emergencies.
Many of those who became dependent on pills weren't aware that might ultimately lead to heroin, HIV and hepatitis C, or that the fentanyl-laced street drugs they were taking might be 100 times more powerful than traditional heroin.
And, most tragic of all, individuals and families caught in the grip of opioid addiction often haven't known where to turn for help.
Those cumulative failures of understanding have fueled a local, state and national tragedy, the dimensions of which are still expanding.
That's why, in addition to new laws, new policing and medical strategies, and increased funding, the battle against opioids must emphasize increased understanding of the disease of addiction and how to fight it.
Indiana this week launched a website that offers information and connections for those working against addiction, those struggling with it, and anyone who wants to understand the problem or find a way to help.
Chosen by Gov. Eric Holcomb as his point person in the war against drugs, Jim McClelland this spring outlined a series of initiatives aimed at helping addicts survive and recover, as well as preventing others from falling into addiction.
The website he now oversees, www.in.gov/recovery, seeks to further those goals by providing an easily accessible storehouse of information.
Among other resources, the site offers quick links for those seeking assistance, tips on how to recognize overdose symptoms and administer naloxone as an antidote, and professional guidance for doctors, educators, pharmacists and community leaders.
There is a multi-layered statistical graphic that allows you to follow the evolution and current status of the epidemic statewide and within your county.
“Previously, people had to jump around from site to site to find the one program they needed for a family member or for themselves,” McClelland said in a release Monday. “Now we have a hub to direct them to the right state resources.”
Knowing where to go for reliable information and help doesn't solve the problem, but it is essential.
“This epidemic has been developing for 20 years,” McClelland has observed. “It's a complex problem with many pieces, and there are no quick or easy solutions.
“But, if enough people work together, we can end the epidemic in far less time than it took to create it.”