FreeImages

The dichotomy of the word “fix” is interesting. It can mean repair. It can be used, too, as slang for the relief provided by a drug — and that’s where the destructiveness happens.

Drugs never fix anything, but it’s hard to understand when the feel good happens. In the beginning, the user-drug of choice relationship seems destined for longevity, but in reality it’s a short-term affair steeped in lust and betrayal.

It may start innocently enough. An affection born of pain.

Whatever the malady, oftentimes relief comes in the form of a prescription opioid; the pain goes away, at least until one pill wanes and beckons another.

Eventually, the body heals, but by then the pill taking is beyond medicinal, it’s obligatory. It seems as essential as air and its absence creates a suffocation of angst.

Those who are hooked turn elsewhere — anywhere they can find the fix; 80 percent of heroin users, including those in treatment, say they misused prescription opioids before turning to heroin, according to drugabuse.gov.

The lucky ones — and they are few — wake up one morning and realize the pill popping has become automatic. “I have a problem,” they tell themselves while gazing in the mirror at someone they hardly recognize.

The unlucky ones — and they are many — think they can manage the need on their own. They cannot; they are addicted.

The bane of addiction is that you are hooked before you realize you bit. You find yourself down a path onto which you can’t remember taking the first step. Then it’s automatic. Want becomes need because your mind says it’s so.

The unfortunate ones — and they are growing in numbers — never wake up.

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of injury deaths in the country, surpassing motor vehicle deaths and gun deaths, according to the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. More than 50,000 people in the U.S. died from overdoses in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, the DEA said.  The agency said prescription painkillers and heroin accounted for more than half the deaths. Now an even more lethal chemical, fentanyl, is contributing to overdose deaths.

In the state of Indiana, they eclipsed traffic-related fatalities in 2008 — and the gap has widened every year since, the Indiana Department of Health reported last year. In southern Indiana’s Clark County, home to my newspaper, 21 people have died from overdoses so far this year. Were it not for naloxone, an overdose reversal drug, that number would be even higher.

The trail of addiction leads to jail. Sheriffs tell us most inmates are there for drug-related crimes than anything else. Those inmates can no more break free from their addictions than they can from the bars that keep them locked away.

The keys to their recovery can also free us of our burdens.

Emergency rooms are overwhelmed with overdose cases, causing hours-long delays in treatment of other ailments.

Our possessions, once stolen, fund their addictions.

We pay for their incarcerations, and for the salaries of those who put them there and who guard them.

We must be guarded, as well, against our complacency in tuning out the drug abuse issue because we tire of hearing about it.

Together, we have to fix this.

No one can do it alone — nor is anyone alone in the struggle.

Duncan is the editor of the Jeffersonville, Indiana, News and Tribune.