The answer?

We don’t have one.

But it’s good to see conversations about substance abuse now underway on the local and state levels.

The highest profile issue involves opioids. National and Alaska statistics are grim, and Ketchikan is not immune.

Evidence of local demand is apparent in the regular drug-related arrests made by law enforcement officials in Ketchikan. We regularly report on new arrests involving drug possession and trafficking. That includes the September arrest of a Ketchikan individual who’d allegedly received a mailed parcel that contained 150 tablets that appeared to be oxycodone but actually contained fentanyl — a synthetic opioid that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration describes as 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine.

It should be noted that DEA testing of seized counterfeit pills has found that two out of every five fake pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose.

“The United States is facing an unprecedented crisis of overdose deaths fueled by illegally manufactured fentanyl and methamphetamine,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said in a Sept. 27 statement.

That statement touches on the human factor. Substance abuse, most particularly opioid abuse, cuts a wide swath across socio-economic lines in bringing misery and tragedy to the people of our community. It can and does affect family members, friends, neighbors and even the person we see in the mirror.

We don’t know what the full effects are locally, however. That’s one reason why we’re encouraged that the Ketchikan City Council has scheduled a special meeting on local opioid abuse, substance abuse and overdose issues. We’re hoping that the combined information to be presented by local organizations will provide a thorough overview of the situation in Ketchikan. Such information could help local officials and the public find viable options to consider as next steps toward slowing a negative tide.

Other areas are taking similar steps. On Wednesday, the Prince of Wales Opioid and Addictions Task Force had a virtual meeting to discuss how to use a federal grant toward a “harm reductions” set of “practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use.”

Alaska, too, is looking for ways to address the issue. A recent example is the governor’s formation of an advisory council on how to use funds derived from financial settlements obtained from prescription opioid manufacturers and distributors.

 So, important conversations are getting underway. We’re hopeful that accurate information involving the scope of the situations will be available soon, and that there will be proven actions that can be taken to help alleviate the variety of issues associated with substance abuse.

We don’t have the answers now. They’re needed quickly.