Triad counties on the front lines in the fight against opioids

RANDOLPH COUNTY, N.C. -- There are few unintended consequences in modern American life than the addiction of pain pills, often referred to as, “Opioids.”

For years, opioids were only used for palliative care. Then, in the early 1990s, they began finding their way into everyday pain management. That’s when things started to go wrong.

“Our statistics show that 80 percent of the heroin users started on pills,” attorney Paul Coates said. “So, the connection is through their knowledge that they are highly addictive.”

“The connection” Coates refers to is between the manufacturers and wholesalers of the opioid pills and a lawsuit that four North Carolina counties have filed against them.

Randolph County is joining Yadkin, Surry and Rockingham counties with a suit that they hope will make these companies change the way they are doing business.

“It's known that it's been a problem and if you sell too many of them in an improper manner, knowing they're getting on the street, knowing that they're getting diverted, then you have a duty not to do that,” Coates said.

The suit isn’t just to get the companies to change the way they do business. It’s also to get those companies to help pay for the treatment that is desperately needed in these counties to get people off of the drugs.

“We don't have those resources in Randolph County,” Health Director Susan Hayes said. “Now, we're working on it and it's getting better. But the funding is not there.”

If you’re one of those people who thinks this is another family’s problem, Randolph County Manager Hal Johnson says you need to look more closely at what’s going on around you.

“The average citizen, if they've not been impacted are probably not aware, sometimes, of what's going on in the house next door,” Johnson said.