It starts innocently enough. Maybe you tweaked your back hooking up the baler, or got kicked by a cow. The pain lingers, and eventually your spouse or kids convince you to visit a doctor, who prescribes a pill. The pain subsides. You feel relaxed. The opioids have worked. And it’s possible they will become a habit.

Opioid painkillers like oxycontin and fentanyl are cheap and effective. But they are highly addictive, as you will read in the stories generated by High Plains Journal editors in the following pages. The addiction is so gripping that some users continue to seek more potent dosages, or new drugs altogether. In some cases, the addiction can be deadly: each day, 115 Americans die of causes related to opioid addiction.

Our research shows that in Oklahoma alone, the cost of opioid addiction totals billions of dollars in lost productivity. The cost to communities can be dramatic, as local law enforcement agencies, healthcare clinics and Emergency Medical Services personnel are not readily equipped to deal with opioid addiction. There is hope. States have developed programs that limit opioid prescriptions, in hopes of preventing addiction.

There are drug take-back programs, to limit the number of unused pills that circulate illegally. And research continues into new products to help folks recover from opioid addiction.

But right now, the power of the opioid pills makes life difficult for many High Plains residents. Please take time to read these stories.