You’ve probably seen the sign prominently displayed in the front yard of a home on Broadway Boulevard, or maybe you’ve seen a picture of it on your favorite social media site. The 4-foot-by-8-foot sign sign says this: “Jessica Williams died HERE February 10th, 2016 of a HEROIN OVERDOSE. Heroin is here in Sedalia and your silence may kill others. TALK ABOUT IT!”
The Williams family has suffered a great tragedy. Wayne and Debbie Williams have bravely chosen to tell the community and the world their story with the hope that others might stop going down that path before it’s too late.
So let’s talk about it: you get heroin when you combine morphine molecules and two acetyl groups to form a new laboratory opiate that is both dangerous and potent. Heroin is usually injected intravenously, though it can also be smoked, snorted and simply eaten.
It’s not the most deadly drug in America — it’s outpaced by tobacco, alcohol, pain pills and cocaine but it is probably the drug we most commonly associate with an overdose. There are treatments that can be used in the event of an overdose if they are administered quickly enough: naloxone and naltrexone are two of the most common.
Even local governments are recognizing it’s cheaper and easier to make sure someone has relatively easy access to anti-overdose medicine when they need it instead of having to deal with whole corpses.
There are people who use words like epidemic lately but there are people in various minority communities who would tell you there’s nothing recent about this epidemic – it has and will continue to kill people of all ages, races and genders. There are those who won’t be able to stop trying to reach that ultimate high until they reach their last high.
In July 2015, Sedalia Democrat reporter Nicole Cooke reported that Sedalia and Pettis County was not experiencing the heroin epidemic on the same level as the rest of the country and the city. Representatives from both the city and county law enforcement agencies reported that while there was some increase it was small compared to the epidemic numbers that are plaguing some parts of the country.
But heroin is here – and any increase is still too much. Any number of people still addicted to heroin is any number too much.
The heroin problem is the direct result of a different problem – the number of people who abuse prescription opiates is higher than you think. It’s sad that some choose to pop pain pills for fun when various circumstances mean that other people with real chronic pain can’t get the solution that they need.
A high school football player gets a serious on-field injury and takes opiates to quell the pain during his recovery. A fall in the hallway creates a major setback and before they know it they’re out of pills. The pressure is on, and the pain needs to be managed if there’s going to be any hope of a speedy and correct recovery. Soon they turn to heroin because that’s all they can track down and soon they’ve got more serious problems than just a torn ligament or a hairline fracture.
Most of the time these people aren’t just junkies just getting high on heroin just for the sake of getting high – these are our family members and our friends and people who found themselves in bad situations through very little if any fault of their own. Imagine the only thing that brings you any relief at all also being the thing that ultimately takes your life.
There are things that can be done but the most important thing is the most basic thing: we’ve got to stop doing it; we’ve got to encourage friends and family to stop. We’ve got to continue creating and supporting programs to distribute naloxone and naltrexone all over the country.
Travis McMullen is a longtime Sedalia resident who shares his views on the city through his weekly Democrat column.