Editorial: Heroin smacks Kingman in the face

Like a blitzkrieg, one image invaded my thoughts as I read reporter Aaron Ricca’s summary of the Kingman Police Department’s annual report published in Wednesday’s Daily Miner.

The image was me, as a child in the ’60s, standing on the barren shore of Elephant Butte Lake in New Mexico. I tossed a rock into the calm water as the sun was preparing to set for the day. The ripples mesmerized my brother and me.

Years later, I learned about the ripple effect in high school. For those who are unfamiliar, and to put it as succinctly as possible, the ripple effect is when one event causes many other events to occur.

America finds itself in the throes of another heroin epidemic and it seems no area of the country is immune. Kingman certainly isn’t.

According to Kingman Police Chief Bob DeVries, a significant increase in heroin and opioid painkillers abuse is directly responsible for equally significant increases in violent and property crime. The ripple effect.

So what was the pebble tossed into the water: the prescription painkiller or the heroin? Both are derivatives of opium, which comes from the poppy plant. Officially, they are known as opioids.

While it would be easy to believe heroin was the culprit, the fact is street dealers are simply reacting to a demand that was created entirely by modern medicine and the law of unintended consequences.

Doctors began prescribing more and more powerful and addicting painkillers, which resulted in more deaths, about 20 years ago.

And then people started overdosing in droves and doctors cut back prescribing and pharmacies stocked a finite supply of opioids. When they were gone, they were gone.

People dependent on prescription opioids for chronic pain discovered they could not count on their prescriptions being filled on time each month.

People addicted to prescription opioids, because they liked to take more than required in order to get high, learned the same thing.

Purveyors of heroin saw a new clientele in both the legitimate user and the party-animal abuser. They both needed relief. Heroin’s cheaper and the high is better, so why wouldn’t America see a dramatic increase in abuse?

As far as fatal overdoses, heroin accounted for just slightly more than half of the opioid overdose deaths in 2015, the most recent year available in a report compiled by the Centers for Disease Control, with prescription opioids accounting for nearly half.

That year, more than 33,000 Americans died of an opioid overdose, the highest number in a single year on record.

When we think of addiction, if we think of it at all, we consider the human cost. The harm the addicted do to his or her loved ones. The neglected children, the abused spouse, the trash in the front yard.

If the KPD report proves anything, it illustrates with perfect clarity that this epidemic has affected all of society. That doesn’t mean we’re getting into record breaking territory. There have been worst years.

There were 587 burglaries in the city in 2016, nearly 250 more than the 346 committed in 2015. Still, that’s a far sight better than the 1,025 that occurred in 2014, which I hope was a record year.

The two numbers that truly support the department’s contention is the number of drug arrests: 416, roughly 100 more than the next highest year, 2013, when 315 such arrests were made.

Domestic violence arrests also were up significantly, 851 in 2016 compared to 693 in 2015. The next highest total over the previous five years was the 718 recorded in 2013.

Traffic crashes also increased significantly. Police investigated 1,066 of them in 2016, by far the highest number on record and 65 more than in 2015.

The good news is, Kingman Police officers now carry a drug they can administer to someone overdosing on heroin or other opioids and have been trained on how to use them – and they have been used.

The ripple effect.