What’s the biggest threat to America? Opioids, hands down

By Chief Johnnie Torres, Jr.

I recently attended a training session on opioid addiction and the public health crisis that it has become, but many reading this are well aware of the harmful impact it has on our communities throughout this great nation and certainly here in Stockbridge. I wanted to share some recent data that was startling to me and underscores the need for us as a community to be more aware of this growing threat and find ways to combat it.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), from 2000 to 2014 nearly half a million persons in the United States died from drug overdoses. More recent data from 2016 show the number of overdose deaths attributed to opioids to be 64,000. According to the Stockbridge Area Emergency Services (S.A.E.S.A.) data there were 48 overdoses in 2017 and five of those resulted in death. We have been fighting ISIS and other terrorist organizations for many, many years now overseas and are nowhere even close to those numbers of deaths. Again, those deaths all occurred here within our borders. Currently drug overdoses have surpassed car accidents and gunshot deaths as a leading cause of death from injury.

Moving from the physical harm to the economic harm felt by federal, state, and local budgets, recent data shows the estimated societal cost of substance abuse in the United States to be over $510 billion, a $60 billion increase since 2005. Furthermore, governments are spending nearly 60 times as much on cleaning up the mess that comes from opioid addiction, way more than it spends on prevention and treatment. It would surprise no one to know that nearly 80 percent of crime offenders abuse drugs or alcohol or that nearly half of all jail/prison inmates are clinically addicted. Moreover, approximately 60 percent of arrested offenders test positive for illegal drugs. This is a huge strain on budgets, and people are not receiving the help they desperately need. About 70 percent of people with health problems such as  hypertension, major depression, and diabetes receive treatment. However; only about 10 percent receive treatment for addictions including alcohol and other drugs.

With all that said, what can we do as a community to help combat this growing health crisis?  We can start by educating ourselves and seeking help when we see signs of abuse and addiction in ourselves or family and friends. Look for signs or addiction referred to in this recent training as the 4 “C’s” of addiction. (1) Loss of control, (2) Compulsive use, (3) Use despite consequences, (4) Craving. Once you see these types of behaviors seek help. A good start is with your physician or Families Against Narcotics (F.A.N.). I encourage you to visit their website for more information, www.familiesagainstnarcotics.org. There is also the “Angel Program” run through Michigan State Police, and the Stockbridge Police is a cooperating member. Call or come into the station for more information about the program.

This rapidly growing problem is not going away soon, in fact, estimates are that it will get worse in the near future. We as a community have to work together to take this monster head-on to avert any more destruction of lives. This crisis may not have affected everyone, but it may soon. Let’s work together to help those individuals whose lives have been destroyed by their addiction become productive members of society instead of ones who depend on it.


Chief Torres, a native of Flint, began his career as a reserve police officer before joining the City of Lansing Police where he served for more than 14 years. He joined the Stockbridge Police Department in 2009 and became its chief in 2011. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan-Flint and is married with two adult children. 

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