We continue to hear bad news when it to overdose numbers in La Salle County.

There were a record number of fatal overdoses — 39 — in 2018. That number is up from 35 last year, and is part of an increasing trend. Five years ago, in 2013, there were 20 overdoses.

Another troubling statistic is that more women are dying from overdoses. In 2013, the deceased men outnumbered the women 4-to-1. Last year, the male-female ratio had shrunk to 60-40.

Overdoses seem to affect a wide range of age groups. The median age is 39 years.

What drugs are to blame? Heroin, fentanyl and cocaine appear frequently in the toxicology results.

So what can be done to stop this trend?

Luckily, we have several local groups who focus on helping those who struggle with addiction. Buddy’s Purpose, Dusty Roads and the Perfectly Flawed Foundation all work to spread awareness and help those in need.

Everyone should consider donating time or money to these organizations because addiction is something that impacts our community as a whole. When addiction becomes fatal, it means the loss of a child, sibling or spouse. There are young children growing up without parents because of this epidemic.

We also need to be proactive and try helping those who have yet to reach out for help. While addiction can happen to anyone, people may be more prone to abuse drugs and alcohol if they are dealing with mental health issues, anxiety or stress.

We need to reach out to family, friends and neighbors when they are going through difficult times. We also need to be willing to have difficult conversations with those we think might be developing a dependence on either drugs or alcohol.

Beyond that, there are still a lot of improvements that need to be made in health care. There are not a lot of local options when it comes to addiction treatments. We need to improve access and finds ways to make it more affordable.

We also need doctors to be responsible when prescribing painkillers because we’ve seen many people get addicted after taking pain pills following an accident or injury.

We also need scientists to continue researching the causes of addiction because we still have so many unanswered questions when it comes what causes addiction and how best to treat it.

This is not an easy problem to tackle. It’s one that many of us are already aware of, and there are many wonderful people already working hard to combat the issue. But it is something we all must keep thinking about until more solutions are found.

Brynn Twait can be reached at (815) 220-6932 or perureporter@newstrib.com. Follow her on Twitter @NT_Peru.

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Jordan Havlik works as a reporter covering the City of Peru. He can be reached at (815) 220-6932 or perureporter@newstrib.com.

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