The findings in a new report on the opioid crisis in Connecticut are chilling and are a call for action that is impossible to ignore.
Drug overdoses in the state are occurring at a pace pointing toward more than 1,000 deaths by the end of the year.
In the first six months of 2017, there were 539 drug intoxication deaths, according to a report from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, a rate that forecasts 1,078 by New Year’s Eve.
To put these numbers in some perspective, 1,078 would be an increase of more than 100 deaths over 2016 and more than triple the number of overdose deaths five years ago, when there were 357.
And, according to Chief Medical Examiner James Gill, these deaths are largely attributable to opioids, the pain-killing drugs that many state residents have legally in their home medicine cabinets.
In fact, since 2012, the number of overdose deaths has risen steadily every year.
The scourge has scarred communities from Greenwich to Bridgeport to New Haven. Addiction can put a deadly grip on professionals of every stripe - physicians included; regular people hooked as the result of a legal prescription after an accident or surgery; experimenting teenagers; and on and on.
Prescription opioids include common painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone. And if an adult parent has a problem, that might explain the growing number of 1- to 4-year-olds who have been hospitalized as a result of opioid ingestion.
The epidemic - opioids kill more Americans than guns or automobiles - is nationwide and has drawn attention from, thankfully, Donald Trump’s White House down on through states, cities and towns.
A bit of good news is that first responders in the state have been equipped with - and trained in the administration of - naloxone, a drug that can counteract the effects of an overdose. Connecticut State Police, for instance, say they have saved more than 180 people as a result of timely intervention with the antidote.
That obviously is not the solution to this problem.
Fortunately, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is a public official who not only recognizes the severity of the problem, but has acted.
On Thursday, he signed into law several measures intended to strengthen the state’s position in fighting the problem.
Public Act 17-131, An Act Preventing Prescription Opioid Diversion and Abuse, among other things tightens access to certain controlled substances prescriptions by requiring electronic prescriptions. It also cuts the maximum opioid prescriptions for minors from seven to five days.
The key to the solution is a combination of education, treatment and enforcement.
Youngsters, in particular, have to be taught early about the dangers of opioids and the insidious nature of addiction.
People showing the early signs of addiction must have treatment options.
And the doctors who prescribe opioids play a central role. They can buy into the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for prescribing opioids. According to the CDC, some primary care physicians have reported insufficient training in prescribing opioids.
It seems learning has to happen all around.
Editor’s note: This editorial ran in The Connecticut Post on Sept. 1.