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Long Island mustn’t let up in fight against deadly opioids

Discarded needles at a heroin encampment in the

Discarded needles at a heroin encampment in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia in April 2017. Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Dominick Reuter

Deaths from opioid overdoses finally might be declining on Long Island. That’s a dose of good news to mix with the ugly fact that officials say as many as 600 people died from opioid overdoses on Long Island in 2017, and the reality in 2018 will still feature far too many of our friends and loved ones being devastated by drugs.

Both the Suffolk and Nassau county police departments have released preliminary 2018 figures that suggest Long Island might have turned a corner. In Suffolk, both opioid overdoses and deaths from them are down about by about a third through May compared with the same period last year. Overdoses have declined from six a day to 3.6 a day, and fatal overdoses have declined from one every 24 hours to one every 36. If the trend continues, total fatalities from opioid overdoses could move down to 2015 levels in Suffolk; while that’s good, remember 2015 represented double the OD rates of 2010.

In Nassau, officials say fatal heroin overdoses have declined by 11 percent, year to date, and total heroin overdoses are down 24 percent.

Exactly why the numbers are declining is hard to say. Advocates point to awareness, prevention and treatment, while police point to law enforcement crackdowns. But experts say drug epidemics die out eventually, if only because the bulk of the people susceptible to a dangerous substance have died, gotten sober or avoided the pitfall.

What is needed has not changed: Kids and adults alike need to have the dangers of opioids reinforced repeatedly, those who fall into the addiction trap need help, and police need to keep maximum pressure on the vultures profiting from deadly drugs like fentanyl and heroin.

There is hope, we now see. That is all the more reason to keep fighting this fight.