Pubdate: Sat, 18 Aug 2001
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2001 Houston Chronicle


News that 16 people died last weekend from an apparent drug overdose, 
possibly of a lethal combination of cocaine and heroin, is shocking. Most 
of the victims were Hispanic men, many were young and one was a 16-year-old 
girl. But the news that fatal overdoses in Harris County average two or 
three per weekend arguably is far more frightening.

News reports indicate that the number of lethal and nonlethal overdoses 
seen by Houston-area medical personnel has skyrocketed inexplicably. There 
were 31 overdoses in July this year, compared to two that month last year. 
Similarly, the number of overdoses in June of this year jumped to 29, or 26 
more than during that period in 2000.

One Chronicle reader cruelly suggested that the solution to drug use is to 
put batches of bad narcotics on the street so that drug users could "wipe 
themselves out." But drug addicts, no matter that their woes generally are 
self-inflicted, should not be punished by death for their destructive 
behavior. No parent deserves a dead teenager because the child experimented 
with drugs. Better that troubled young people had the kind of access to 
effective drug treatment that recording artists and movie stars apparently 
take for granted.

To prevent more deaths on this scale, local police and Drug Enforcement 
Administration officials are trying to find the source of the lethal drugs. 
They'll also investigate whether the drugs were overly potent or 
contaminated, and whether the drugs were sold to intentionally cause 
overdoses. Four people have been arrested for selling drugs associated with 
the overdose deaths.

There has been a lot of discussion of "bad drugs" since this spate of 
drug-related fatalities. But heroin and cocaine are bad drugs every day of 
the week, even when they don't kill. It would be gratifying if this tragedy 
caused people to recognize that trying street drugs even once could mean death.
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