As we recently reported, Victoria County is not exempt from a disturbing nationwide trend. The flood of opioids into the area through a seven-year period was such that each resident would have amassed 301 pain pills. Of course, this number is an average, so while some were completely drug-free, others racked up substantially more.

Through investigative journalism by the Washington Post and other credible sources, Americans have learned of the troubling propensity for their doctors to overprescribe in the interest of raking in profits for drug corporations. Furthermore, with an excess of medication comes the certainty that some will abuse it, regardless of whether they saw a doctor or merely found the opportunity at a friend or relative’s overstocked medicine cabinet.

Since the dawn of the millennium, hundreds of thousands of Americans have died from abusing painkillers – a number that should both shock us and motivate us to do better.

Now, armed with the knowledge of what the opioid epidemic is doing to our country, the time has come to fight back.

Education is vital. Ask your doctor whether the painkillers he or she prescribes are necessary or if over-the-counter options like ibuprofen will suffice. Ask how long you will need to medicate and what to do with excess pills if you find yourself feeling better sooner than expected.

Then, once you’re home from the hospital, store all medication in a secure location – out of reach of children, teenagers or any houseguests.

Once you complete your course of treatment, properly dispose of any extra pills. Letting them sit in your medicine cabinet raises the possibility that you will become an inadvertent dealer for someone looking to abuse. The Victoria County Sheriff’s Office hosts medication take back events to alleviate such concerns. The events are convenient and low-pressure, so all residents should feel free to take part.

Finally, it’s important to note that help exists for those who already struggle with addiction. Billy T. Cattan Recovery Outreach, the Gulf Bend Center and Mid-Coast Family Services all employ experts who can help you or someone you love get back on their feet. Multiple support groups also meet throughout the area. Find a time and location that works with your schedule by visiting VictoriaAdvocate.com/calendar.

Each of us has a part to play in curbing the opioid epidemic. With simple, preventative steps, our community can save lives.

This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate’s editorial board.

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