By Ira Mandel

Knox County has a problem.

  • 10% of babies born from mother who is drug addicted
  • 25% of teenagers use drugs regularly
  • Thousands of people addicted to opioid drugs, most of whom cannot find treatment
  • Fishing community rates of addiction significantly higher than general population
  • 90% of Knox County Jail inmates incarcerated directly or indirectly due to their drug addiction
  • Drug overdose deaths about 1/month

Nearly half of all Americans have a family member or close friend who’s been addicted to drugs (based on a Pew survey).

In Maine, the figure is 60%.

Overdose deaths rates in America (and Maine) rose more in the last year more than the last four combined, now at 65,000 American deaths a year.

This is equivalent to 175 deaths in America every day. It is as if an airplane crashed every day and we react as if that was okay.

That is more than 1 death daily in Maine and we react as if that was okay.

Drug overdose is now the number 1 cause of death in America under age 50 and we react as if that was okay.

But, we know how to address the drug addiction epidemic.

In fact, we have a blueprint. It is called “The US Surgeon General’s Report of 2016 (Facing Addiction in America)”.

Still we are doing very little about this epidemic. Why?

  • The attitudes in our community fuel this problem: Attitudes range from the judgmental to disparaging to disapproving to blaming to being unsympathetic, to being apathetic and simply denying the problem.
  • Why do local animal shelters receive far more in donations than organizations trying to fight drug addiction? Puppies and kittens are lovable! People with drug addiction are not, but they are all the friends and family of many who are devastated by the needless suffering.
  • Why do we do so little? Stigma and shame makes most people and families hide their problems rather than reaching out for solutions. It is time to stop denying this awful plague on our community and for the community to rally behind solutions and those willing to roll up their sleeves.
  • What kind of strategies can the community take to foster progress to reduce the problems caused by this epidemic? Start talking about this cancer eating away at our next generation. What can we learn from the HIV/AIDS community?

Among many common misunderstandings about addiction is that it is simply a “choice” or “a moral weakness” and that people can “just stop using drugs” if they choose. The TRUTH is that addiction is a (1) brain disease that can ACTUALLY BE SEEN on brain scans and (2) people with addiction should be able to obtain medical care that treats their addiction as a disease without being subject to public shame and criticism.

Let’s put an end to this insanity. The addiction epidemic should encourage a productive dialog and efforts to find solutions together, not to attack each other. Many lives are at stake including those of children and teenagers. There is much we need to do in order to break our community’s cycles of addiction. We need to have ongoing discussions about solutions to make sure we are all pulling in the same direction. Otherwise, we will fail.

I encourage others to write letters to the newspapers and to speak with me directly with their thoughts, concerns and suggestions. I can be reached at Thank you.

To continue this conversation, join us this Wednesday from 5 to 6 pm on WRFR’s Rockland Metro Show, at 93.3 fm in Rockland, 99.3 fm in Camden, and online at To contact The Buzz, email or call Joe at 596­0731.