Pubdate: Tue, 13 Jun 2006
Source: Belleville News-Democrat (IL)
Copyright: 2006 Belleville News-Democrat
Author: Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service
Bookmark: (Heroin)


The following editorial appeared in the Chicago Tribune on Sunday, June 11:


Some are dull, wizened junkies. Others are fresh-faced young 
customers, flitting like moths to a flame. Still others are shrewd 
and seasoned explorers, drawn to the remarkable high from a 
painkiller 80 times as potent as morphine. But no matter what brings 
them, the unluckiest pay a few bucks for a rapid rush they don't live 
long enough to enjoy.

Should the rest of us care that bad choices are leading to dead ends?

Week after week this spring, drug users have been dying by the dozens 
in Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and more locales after injecting or 
snorting heroin laced with the otherwise useful drug fentanyl. Not 
that those who shun illicit drugs have paid more than fleeting 
attention. Hey, this isn't happening on our blocks.

We should care, though. And not only because even the most broken 
spirits, those who live dose to dose, are somebody's children. Consider:

The deadly heroin mix confronts each of us with what happens every 
day in too many neighborhoods: Eager drug buyers shower revenue on 
violent drug gangs that - to protect their turf and to settle their 
differences - turn city streets into sluices of blood. Now more of 
those buyers, Chicagoans and suburbanites alike, are dying. A drug 
that oncologists use to pre-empt cancer patients' pain during 
difficult procedures instead is shutting down respiratory systems - 
literally snuffing out lives.

Federal authorities think they have traced the illicit fentanyl to 
labs in Mexico. That's a separate reason for concern: Say what you 
will of U.S. drug laws, which some Americans think encourage 
distribution of unregulated - and sometimes contaminated - narcotics. 
But foreign drug lords shouldn't get away with exporting inordinately 
lethal substances into U.S. cities.

Heartless as it sounds, drug deaths on this scale have costs that go 
beyond loss of life. No one is toting up the huge burdens that these 
fentanyl deaths have created for police patrol officers and 
investigators, for paramedics, for emergency room staffs, for 
toxicologists and pathologists, for public and private programs that 
educate and treat addicts. Like deaths from a heat wave or a homicide 
spree, these costs get absorbed in municipal and hospital budgets.

Drug use that moves from reckless to deadly rips at society's already 
thin fabric. The danger isn't as clear-cut as it is with the drunk 
driver who speeds past schools. But selfish behavior by people who've 
chosen to ignore the risks arguably makes cities less safe. Like 
vandals who break windows or squeegee men who hassle drivers, 
peddlers and users of deadly heroin stoke fears and menace the peace.

Then there's the intangible reason to care about these deaths: Most 
of us are the people whom our parents, our teachers and our 
trustworthy friends have raised us to be. Maybe we can't stop the 
sale of fentanyl-laced heroin. We can, though, applaud the work of 
law enforcement and health officials who are laboring frantically to 
save lives less fortunate than our own.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman