The Opioid Epidemic
In 2016, more than two million Americans had an addiction to prescription or illicit opioids.
Since 2000, over 300,000 Americans have died from overdoses involving opioids.
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of injury death in the United States, outnumbering both traffic crashes and gun-related deaths.
Trouble at Home
The opioid epidemic has hit home both literally and figuratively. According to mass.gov, "2014 marked the first year since 1999 that the fatal overdose rate in the Bay State was more than double the national average." In the past ten years alone, I've had three personal friends and a next-door neighbor succumb to the 'disease' (as I call it). In fact, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration describes the issue as, "similar to diabetes or cancer, addiction is a complex disease impacted by certain risk factors like behavior and family history. Compulsive substance abuse, cravings, and continued use despite known harmful consequences are hallmarks of the condition. This disease is also more widespread than some may realize." Neophytes on this issue argue that it's a selfish decision--it was the addicts choice, and therefore deserve zero sympathy or empathy. I don't subscribe to this belief. Cynics such as these, fail to factor in the realities detailed by SAMHSA. Seeing the affects of opiate abuse slowly tighten its grip on a persons rationality, up close and personally, has swayed my opinion on this most pressing issue.
Chapter 55 Report
For the sake of context, I feel its important to mention the "Chapter 55 Report". As previously mentioned, my home-state of Massachusetts is suffering. The fact is, "In 2013–2014 alone, opioid-related deaths occurred in two-thirds of the cities and towns in Massachusetts." To combat the war on opioids, The Commonwealth of Massachusetts compiled a comprehensive report on the opioid crisis that was unprecedented. It was groundbreaking because it evolved into an Act signed by legislature and signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker. The Act requires, "certain reports for opiate overdoses" and "is hereby declared to be an emergency law, necessary for the immediate preservation of the public convenience." I'm proud of the fact that government officials in this state have finally grabbed the torch on this issue and are taking some initiative.
I'd be remiss and selfish to solely mention where I live as being the only part of a more widespread problem.Opioid addiction has become a nationwide problem ravaging small towns and communities in its wake. It's gotten so bad, that President Trump with his administration, have declared opioid addiction as a "Health Emergency" and signed a memorandum ordering the Health and Human Services Secretary to direct all federal agencies to use any emergency authorities that they have to reduce the number of opioid overdose deaths." To better understand the seriousness and scope of the situation, you must realize that the last time a directive was ordered like this, it was in response to the swine-flu outbreak. The administration has shown its seriousness on the issue, given the fact that, "more than $1 billion in funding has been allocated or spent directly addressing the drug addiction and opioid crisis", since Trump took office. Regardless how you feel about the man, it's hard not to laud his effort to attack this issue affecting so many Americans.
A Downward Spiral
Nobody wakes up one day out of the blue and says to themselves, "Let me try heroin today". Through personal observation and research on the subject, I've realized that opioid abuse is a rabbit hole that once you climb in, it's nearly impossible to climb out. The majority of addicts will tell you their habit started off innocuously enough, with prescribed pain-killers such as OxyContin, Oxycodone, and Hydrocodone used to help recover from an injury. Eventually, your body builds up a tolerance for these drugs (which aren't cheap) and you end up needing larger doses and larger quantities. When the money runs out, people turn to the cheapest and most powerful pain-killing drug they can readily get their hands on—heroin. Now you may ask, where's the connection with opioids? Opioids are, simply put, concentrated opium in pill form. Opium, when processed chemically, produces heroin. So in essence, the drugs you're being prescribed by a primary care doctor to relieve pain from an injury contain a lot of the same properties as heroin. If you find yourself abusing pain pills; seek help. Seek help, because guess what? Heroin will be your endgame no matter what you tell yourself.
It's hard to quantify the seriousness of the situation without witnessing the deterioration of a persons soul, intimately. That being said, facts can enlighten one to these dire straits. According to an article on cbsnews.com, "more than one in three Americans were prescribed opiates in 2015." The prevalence of opioids in American society, is a slippery slope with highs and lows. In addition to recreational abusers of the drug, there are many folks out there who are responsible and cautious takers of these powerful remedies. For many, these drugs enhance the quality of one's life and are very beneficial on the road to recovery. Going forward, a national dialogue is needed and more attention needs to be paid. Far too often these days, frivolous and petty "news stories" tend to dominate the 24-hour media cycle. Unfortunately, Opioid addiction deserves our undivided attention.