We’ve all seen the headlines about the ongoing opioid epidemic happening in the United States. Since 1999, the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids nearly quadrupled, and that number continues to climb.

It’s not just a faraway crisis, either. It’s happening in our own backyard, something local officials aren’t ignoring.

Drug experts and law enforcement officials have hosted multiple town halls during the last few years, hoping to educate the public on the dangers of opioid abuse. Despite the added attention, the epidemic doesn’t seem to be ceasing.

In fact, according to Partnership for a Drug-Free Iowa President Peter Komendowski, the opioid and heroin epidemic is going to keep growing for five to seven more years, when it is going to reach its peak.

That’s a frightening statement considering that in 2014, the most recent year on record, more people died from drug overdoses than in any year on record, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The majority of those overdose deaths, more than six out of 10, involved an opioid.

So it’s worth the time local officials are utilizing to educate the public. And it goes far beyond just hosting town halls. During the most recent gathering, attendees discussed the impact of going into schools, to make sure children are aware of the realities of abusing opioids, which includes prescription pain relievers that can be found in many local households.

We agree that reaching children is an effective way of slowing down this epidemic. But it’s also about educating parents, grandparents and those who prescribe medication about the consequences of opioid abuse.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, in 2014, more than 240 million prescriptions were written for prescription opioids, which is enough to give every American adult their own bottle of pills. Four in five new heroin users started out by misusing prescription opioids.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released new recommendations for prescribing opioid pain medications and continues to put more money into educating prescribers on how to eliminate the overuse of prescription opioids.

And this addiction doesn’t care about socioeconomic status. Americans with a household income between $20,000 to $49,000 saw an increase of 77 percent in heroin use from 2002 to 2013, according to the CDC. Those with household incomes of more than $50,000 saw an increase of 60 percent during that timeframe.

This addiction can happen at any stage in life, so becoming more educated on what’s best for your health is necessary to combating this local and nationwide problem.

Educate not only our local children, but yourself, on how to avoid becoming another statistic.

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