The opioid epidemic is a lot like a modern version of the black plague; it spreads across communities silently, peacefully, infecting people without so much as a symptom until it’s too late. While Lincoln County may be relatively isolated, it has still been impacted by the national epidemic.
According to data gathered by the Washington Post, in a period of time spanning 2006-2012, over 1.6 million prescription pain pills were distributed in Lincoln County alone, which means that 22 thousand pills were distributed every month during that time.
But despite this, the county has been lucky, according to Sheriff Kerry Lee.
“We’ve been fortunate,” he said during an interview with the Lincoln County Record. “It’s not as bad here as it is in other places.”
He said this is due to a variety of factors. For one, he was grateful to the pharmacists and doctors of the county, who are very strict with their prescriptions. In one example, which ended with an arrest by the drug task force August 20, county medical personnel noticed something was wrong and alerted authorities.
Lee also pointed at how well educated the citizens of Lincoln County are on the effects of prescription drugs. He said that he and his deputies have been to every school in Lincoln, talking about the harmful effects of drug use, and have begun talking to seniors in the county about how to properly keep track of their prescriptions so they don’t fall into the wrong hands. To this end, the sheriff’s department has a few locations where people can safely dispose of leftover pills. Thos locations are the Annex in Alamo, and the sheriff’s office in Pioche. Anyone who needs to dispose of their pills can do so at these two locations with no questions asked.
Lee also pointed out that the people dealing with these kinds of problems every day could be neighbors, friends and family.
“These are normal, everyday people dealing with this.”
According to Dr. Andrew Bleak, the pharmacist at Jolly’s Drug Store in Caliente, “It’s a complicated thing. And really it’s a mess.”
According to Bleak, the reports coming out of the government agencies have forced companies and doctors to be very cautious with their prescriptions, which has prevented them from falling into the wrong hands, but the backlash against pharmacists and drug companies has had a negative impact on patients. He noted that people who are actually in pain are suffering due to the long wait times and extended screening process, but there is hope for them in small communities like Lincoln County.
“The biggest thing is knowing the patients,” he stated.
In some places, pharmacies will refuse to fill prescriptions if they have not done so in the past, but in Lincoln County it’s likely a pharmacist will know a person’s prescription history.
Despite the effect that these pills have had on other counties and states, Bleak and Lee agree that Lincoln County has been blessed to have fewer deaths and problems. They attribute this in large part to preventative measures.