As Thomas Wolfe's famed book clearly states, you can't go home again. Granted, when he wrote that novel back in the early days of the 20th century, he illustrated how American society had changed so drastically between the economic prosperity of the Roaring '20s and the subsequent disaster that followed during the Great Depression.
Today, however, we can see similar parallels in how our society has changed and not for the better, either. One of the greatest disasters that is now plaguing our great nation is the epidemic of people addicted to narcotics, especially heroin and methamphetamine.
This disease has continued to spread across our country. It's no longer something you might expect to find in large, urban areas. It's seeped into small towns and communities, including the place where I grew up back in northeastern Ohio.
In fact, there was an alarming report that recently came out showing a significant number of homes just a few miles from my parents' house that were being used specifically to manufacture and distribute methamphetamine. At one time, these were really nice homes situated in respectable neighborhoods where families could enjoy life.
All of these once-beautiful neighborhoods have fallen to disrepair with no signs that this will change anytime soon.
I guess Thomas Wolfe was right after all.
The dangers of addiction continue to worry me on a very personal level. I have two members of my extended family that are continuing to recover from their addictions, and it's clear they will carry this burden for the rest of their lives because they will never fully recover.
I see a similar story play itself out every week in our own community. Before the newspaper goes to press each Tuesday, I've already read how many people were arrested for drug-related crimes as well as those who were punished as a result of their addiction to drugs and alcohol.
At the same time, I meet regularly with people I know are undergoing treatment in hopes of breaking their addiction once and for all. A few I know on a first-name basis, and I ask then how they are doing.
Some of them admit they are being successful during the course of their treatment. Others are not so fortunate.
What sickens me the most is these people became hooked because there were others out there that are all too willing to feed that addiction. I read a recent story in my old hometown newspaper about one person that is continuing to recover from his heroin addiction that began with a chance encounter involving a drug dealer that befriended him.
It seemed this was the same story I've read in other newspapers. In each case, it seems to start out with people getting addicted to pain medications. It quickly accelerates to an addiction to even stronger prescription drugs before they get hooked on heroin.
And of course, the person providing them their daily "fix" is all too willing to ensure they have what they need. From the dealer's perspective, it's nothing personal. It's business.
But this "business" comes at a huge price. In our state alone, more than 1,650 people died from a drug overdose or long-term drug abuse from 2004 to 2013, according to a report released last week by the Associated Press. That represents a 77 percent jump in the number of these types of deaths.
I'm sure there are many of us out there that saw the report where a man and woman had overdosed on heroin and were laying unconscious in their car. Meanwhile, the woman's granddaughter was sitting in the back seat with no one caring for her.
This wasn't an isolated incident. As I searched for information on that incident, I found a similar story regarding a younger couple that had also overdosed in their car with their child left unattended in the back seat.
Maybe this is why I'm so jaded when it comes to drug dealers and those who willingly manufacture this poison. After seeing how much harm these drugs have done to so many victims, I'm pretty much convinced that a more drastic approach is needed to deal with them.
It seems that I wasn't alone.
During their current session, Idaho lawmakers considered a measure that would have made selling or giving heroin to someone who overdoses a case of second-degree murder. The proposed law would have made someone liable for another person's death, regardless of the intent to cause it.
It was one of those rare bipartisan efforts that was rejected by the Idaho House of Representatives. Opponents of the measure said the law went too far -- that it conflicts with the legal definition of murder, which includes clear intent.
Those who rejected the bill added that it was a throwback to 1990s-era "tough-on-crime" bills, which they felt didn't seem to work. At the same time, they felt charging someone with murder was out of step with current thinking on how to reduce drug abuse and drug-related crimes.
While I understand that perspective, I can't say I agree. Drug dealers and manufacturers deliberately target people with their poison and continue to feed that addiction until these people die. When that happens, the dealers simply move on to the next target and so on.
Left in the aftermath are the families whose lives are shattered by the loss of their loved ones. That doesn't include the number of people that become the victims of various crimes committed by drug addicts who will do just about anything to fuel their addiction.
The current drug epidemic is spiraling out of control with no end in sight. It's a national tragedy that will continue to play out on social media and the evening news until something is done to eliminate that disease once and for all.
Otherwise, we will never be able to go home again.
-- Brian S. Orban