Letter: More must be done to fight drug abuse


It’s been five years since Bryan Richards, a 26-year-old Waterford Township resident, died from a heroin overdose.

His mother, Jeannie Richards, has been on a mission to heighten awareness about what is becoming an epidemic throughout southeastern Michigan and beyond.

Last week the U.S. Senate took an important step.

The Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act would allow the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services to provide grants for states to expand treatment efforts and access to overdose prevention drugs. The legislation “will help tackle this crisis by expanding education and prevention initiatives, improving treatment programs and bolstering law enforcement efforts.”

The timing couldn’t get any better.

In 2012, the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office recorded that 281 deaths were classified as “undeterminable,” the category under which many drug-related deaths fall.

What’s more, the Michigan Department of Community Health has reported that the state recorded 271 heroin-related overdose deaths between 1999 and 2002. That number soared nearly 300 percent to 728 between 2010 and 2012.

Heroin, which is sometimes called “black tar,” “hell dust,” or “smack,” is a white or sometimes brown powder or a black substance. It is usually either smoked, snorted or injected and enters into the brain rapidly. It affects nerves tied to a person’s breathing, blood pressure, and mood. The drug is extremely addictive. Those who inject heroin with needles are at a higher risk for HIV, Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C.

More must be done. Lawmakers must put their shoulder to the wheel and provide assistance. Simply put: We need the U.S. House of Representatives to join the Senate and approve similar legislation. It’s time for the Judiciary Committee to act.

Dr. Anil Kumar, Rochester Hills