Drug Addiction Beyond The Cities


Nearly 1 in 10 babies born last year in this Appalachian county tested positive for drugs. In January, police caught several junior high school students, including a seventh grader, with painkillers. Stepping Stone House, a residential rehabilitation clinic for women, takes patients as young as 18. 

 In Ohio, fatal overdoses more than quadrupled in the last decade, and by 2007 had surpassed car crashes as the leading cause of accidental death, according to the Department of Health. 

The problem is so severe that Gov. John R. Kasich announced $36 million in new spending on it this month, an unusual step in this era of budget austerity. And on Tuesday, the Obama administration announced plans to fight prescription drug addiction nationally, noting that it was now killing more people than crack cocaine in the 1980s and heroin in the 1970s combined.

I'll be very interested in looking at how we approach this issue, and comparing it with how we approached crack in the 1980s. I don't think the difference is strictly racial. The problems of big inner-cities are visible in a way that the problems of the suburbs, exurbs, and rurals are not. Moreover, big media tends to make its home in cities like Washington and New York where large numbers of African-Americans live. 

Beyond that, there's another question that's always nagged at me: Does treatment really work? I'm not being sarcastic. I'm seriously asking on the "talk to me like I'm stupid" tip.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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