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Eric Douglas: Friends lost to overdose not forgotten


By Eric Douglas

A year ago, I wrote that I was angry at the loss of a young woman, my step-daughter’s best friend, to drugs.

I knew the young woman. She was talented, beautiful and creative. She would often bounce in and out of our house and went on vacation with us. That hole is still there and will never be filled.

Now multiply that feeling times 1,000; that’s how many people West Virginia could lose in 2017 if things don’t change. (We lost 844 in 2016, up from 731 in 2015. I see no sign things are slowing down.)

In researching another article, I stumbled across an interesting bit of information. It said that the United States consumes 80 percent of the opioids in the world, but we only have 5 percent of the world’s population. I won’t overwhelm you with more numbers about drug overdose deaths, except to say that they have literally quadrupled in less than 20 years.

Every night on the evening news, both local and national, there is a story about opioids. Every morning, the newspaper talks about heroin, fentanyl and other narcotics. I will never understand how a person can look at a heroin user and think, “I want to do that, too.” It defies logic. I’m sure logic has nothing to do with it, though.

Everyone has a theory, of course, about why heroin and other opioids have become such a problem. Prescription drugs leading to addiction? Unemployment and hopelessness? Chronic pain from a difficult life? Answers to those questions will ultimately help us end this scourge once and for all.

In the short term, though, we must find a better way to keep anyone else from starting down that road. My step-daughter mentioned that it’s helpful to know the signs of drug use. Many of the lists I found online talked about things like open sores and runny noses, but she talked about signs that show up even before that. She’s seen these things in more than one friend.

— Withdrawing from friends and family. She explained that they feel guilty and think they have to disown friends before the friends disown them.

— Frequent nausea and other medical conditions like trouble breathing (from fluid on the lungs).

— Unexplained weight loss.

I’m not saying her name out of respect for the family, but rest assured the young woman who left us this time last year is not forgotten, and none of the others who died because of drugs in this country should be forgotten, either.

Eric Douglas, of Pinch, is the author of “Return to Cayman,” “Heart of the Maya,” “Cayman Cowboys,” “River Town” and other novels. He is also a columnist for Scuba Diving Magazine and a former Charleston Newspapers Metro staff writer. For more information, visit or contact him at


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