New Attorney General Josh Stein, as a senior member of that office earlier in his career, once focused on consumer protection in the cause of average North Carolinians, whether that mean protecting them from predatory lenders or preventing gambling interests from gaining a foothold in the state. Now, as attorney general, Stein signals another productive cause, one that will challenge him and the state.
The cause is stemming opioid addiction, which kills four people a day across the state. Prescriptions for these pain medications, which were used by doctors going back a couple of decades in the name of better controlling pain, have proved highly addictive. They’ve caused increases in crime from people trying to get them or sell them, have destroyed families.
Crucial to addressing the problem is getting everyone to think of these addictions as a health issue first. That means sending people who’ve broken the law to treatment rather than automatically to incarceration. It’s easier said than done, but sheriffs and police chiefs are showing a good awareness of what needs to be done.
“It’s time to put an end to this scourge,” Stein told a gathering of law enforcement and activists in Raleigh. He’s working to raise awareness of doctors, but cautions ending the crisis will be a long row to hoe. It’s encouraging, however, that “summits” on opioid addiction and the crisis now draw big crowds. That’s a sign that the goal of raising awareness, at least, has been achieved.