Strategies are needed to fight Oklahoma's addiction nightmare

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: March 18, 2012

JUST as an addict develops tolerance for a drug, making the body less responsive to a substance unless it gets more of it, the general public can reach a point of desensitization to news about drugs. Stories may no longer ignite surprise — until information sufficiently shocking comes along to jolt us out of our complacency.

Addiction is costly. More Oklahomans died of drug overdoses than motor vehicle accidents in 2010. Our state ranks No. 1 one for prescription drug abuse. Direct and indirect costs of addiction in Oklahoma total $7.2 billion — half a billion more than our state government's entire budget.

During the past week, the “State of Addiction” series in The Oklahoman has highlighted disturbing trends and statistics. Media companies have united for this collaborative effort — The Oklahoman, Tulsa World, Oklahoma Watch, State Impact Oklahoma, OETA, KWTV-9 and KGOU. Combating public apathy is one front in the war on drugs.

“It seems like they've grown immune to the drug issues,” said Darrell Weaver, director of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control. “They think that they've heard it so much, is it really even out there? The scary part is, it's probably affecting more lives in our state than at any time ever in history. Ever.”

According to the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, about 160,000 Oklahomans need drug and alcohol addiction treatment. The issue affects every community, spanning all ages and social strata, parents and children, veterans and back pain sufferers. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, you're not alone. Resources are available, and many are compiled on's online “Know it: Addiction” feature.

Beyond raising awareness and sharing information, we need a comprehensive and active approach from the state level all the way down to local communities.

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