2017-10-18 / Opinions

Drug dealers in suits

While West Virginia families were fighting to stay free of a growing wave of pill addiction, elected officials in Washington, D.C. were making it easier for drug companies to ship enormous quantities of pain pills into the state.

That’s what an investigation by the Washington Post and 60 Minutes has revealed this week. Their work tags onto Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting by Eric Eyre of the Charleston Gazette Mail. Eyre dug up data about just how many pills flowed into southern West Virginia as more and more state residents were dying of overdoses.

West Virginia still leads the nation in drug overdoses with more than 800 last year. This year will not be the year that number drops, Eyre has reported.

The distressing revelation this week is that the federal Drug Enforcement Agency wanted to stop suspiciously large drug shipments into small communities. Drug company lobbyists convinced Congress to pass a bill that would keep the shipments rolling.

Former DEA agents, hired by the drug distributors as consultants, helped lobbyists weaken laws that could stop ridiculously large pill shipments.

Drug distributors kept pumping pills into southern West Virginia towns at an alarming rate. Millions of pain pills were delivered to towns with a population smaller than Morgan County. Doctors and “pain clinics” kept the flow of pills going into homes and onto the street. People who were addicted to the pain pills then turned to heroin and pills being sold on the street. Hundreds then thousands of people died of drug overdoses. More do every day.

It’s clear that drug distributors are in the business of selling as many pills as possible to whoever wants them. They are not medicine distributors as much as drug dealers.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions should turn his “war on drugs” immediately toward prosecuting anyone who helped fuel the opioid overdose scourge – including drug lobbyists and distributors. Sessions should do what law enforcement at every level does to drug dealers – seize money and property associated with their crimes. That elaborate wealth – more wealth than West Virginia’s entire economy -- could pay for a vast army of addictions counselors and efforts to rebuild families and communities.

Those in suits and high-dollar positions can’t be protected. Americans in small towns weren’t protected from a flood of pills. We’re still fighting to keep our heads above water.

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It's a culling.

It's a culling.