Friday, April 22, 2011

Peg & Les

Kentucky drug overdose deaths soar.
By Ryan Rahilly
22 April 2011

Recent studies reveal increasing rates of prescription painkiller addiction, methamphetamine production, and fatal overdoses in the state of Kentucky. The drug problem has been compounded over the past decade by cuts to funding for drug treatment programs, which have increasingly been replaced with jail terms.

In an investigative series published in January and February, the Louisville Courier-Journal found that Kentucky drug addiction deaths have risen to 1,000 deaths per year, surpassing traffic fatalities in the state, and more than double the drug death toll of a decade ago. Deaths from prescription drug abuse rose from 403 in 2000, to 978 in 2009. Traffic accidents killed 791 Kentuckians in 2009.

Kentucky spends less than a quarter of what many states spend to contend with addictions, and drug policy programs have not seen an increase in funding for more than 10 years. What little funding has been earmarked for drug prevention, control, and treatment has been cut by millions of dollars. The Office of Drug Control Policy was cut last year by $2.1 million, forcing the agency to reduce its staff from 10 to only 4 employees. The $1.5 million budget for the Kentucky family and juvenile drug courts, which provide alternatives to prison or foster homes for drug-devastated families, was entirely eliminated January 1, 2011.

Operation UNITE, a non-profit agency focused on the epidemic of drug abuse in the Appalachian coalfields region of Kentucky, saw its 2007-08 budget slashed from $10.3 million to $4.6 million the following year.

The Appalachian region, and particularly eastern Kentucky, southwestern West Virginia, and southeastern Ohio are stricken with poverty and high unemployment, which has fed a black market economy and led to rising drug addiction rates. Eastern Kentucky registered a prescription drug overdose death rate of 26.3 per 100,000, which is almost twice as high as the rest of the nation.

The Courier-Journal investigation found that eastern Kentucky’s Bell County registered a staggering prescription drug death rate of 54 per 100,000, and advocates have reported treating children as young as 9 for addiction.

-------- I suppose the agenda behind such writing is to push for mo' money and government intervention. But, I know many of these unfortunate folks the WSWS is referring to, for example - Peggy and Leslie from Kentucky.

In the late 1960s and '70s both barely 18, they worked in factories, nursing homes, restaurants. They had 3 sons. Life was economically tough, but even uneducated and unskilled they managed to pay off a piece of land with a doublewide trailer, a car, a truck.

Some time around 1980 they determined life was easier without a job and with a lot of Wild Turkey and prescription medication. They began a career of minor car accidents and falling in grocery stores over spills they had manufactured themselves - before the days of everything caught on camera. Lawsuit Les and Settlement Peg. Medicaid, Medicare, disability followed.

Peg and Les spent most of the 1980s and '90s in overstuff chairs, drooling, slowly deteriorating physically and mentally, high on prescription drugs from the pain management clinic and numerous physicians in the tri-state area. Their 3 boys have followed in their footsteps, worse as the boys have been hardcore methheads, in and out of more jails and treatment centers than their parents. One son had 3 children before his 18th birthday - wards of the State now.

As the boys got older they too found they were eligible for government aid for one thing or another, thus they commit less crime now. Why steal for drugs if you can get the government or some agency or program to give you the means to get it free... and this generation has discovered that if your children are diagnosed with certain syndromes or disorders, they too can get a check and medications. All the kid needs is a little coaching and a parent willing to doctor shop until he finds that one who will fill out government forms, putting a lifetime label on the kid, worth a government check.

Les and Peg's land and trailer, the car and truck, are long gone. Sold to raise bail and buy black market drugs as the prescriptions never last until the next legal refill. Peg is gone now too - overdosed at age 55. Les awoke one morning to find her dead in the chair in front of flickering reruns of the Beverly Hillbillies. Les remarried a couple of years later, found a lady with a great prescription plan and a disability check bigger than his own. Les and Peg, and now this wife, always fight (one usually sporting a black eye or busted lip) usually over one or the other stealing the other's pills or who took the last slice of pizza.

They have spent most of their lives and all of their energy on scheming how and where to get more drugs. They want nothing to do with treatment programs - unless court ordered - because they're not addicts - they just have health problems, their life is not their fault, they have just been unfortunate, punished by fate, and in need of chronic pain medication (staying high).

It will not matter if government funding for treatment and/or prevention is slashed or infused with 10 times more. It will not cure the millions of Les and Pegs across the nation. It will not matter if jobs open up tomorrow - the Les and Pegs of the nation are too ill to work. Too brain damaged to think beyond the next dose and reruns of I Dream of Genie. As are their children and grandchildren. Each generation getting slicker and meaner and more mentally deficient.

Now some will say they are deeply offended by this post. Where's my empathy, where's my sympathy. More than likely, if you feel offended, it's because you, or someone close to you, are guilty of some or all of the above (or because your livelihood is dependent on pandering to Les and Pegs). And it's not offended that you feel, it's anger, because you're being called on your b.s.

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