Opinion: A Crisis Worthy of Contemplation

//Brendan O’Keeffe//

Over 30,000 Americans died as a result of opioid overdoses in 2015 alone; this epidemic is a sizeable problem that requires more attention in order to be solved accordingly.

     To illustrate, “opioid” is a classification term that refers to a handful of different types of drugs, with the three predominant categories being: illegal (heroin), synthetic (fentanyl, acetyl) and prescription (codeine, morphine). The ordeal has become so severe that 115 Americans are now dying of opioid overdoses on a daily basis. In the span of a little over a year, overdoses increased 30 percent in 52 areas in 45 states. Not only does this national crisis affect public health, but it is also a burden on economic welfare.  According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the estimated total “economic burden” of prescription opioid abuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year. This statistic includes healthcare costs, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement. Despite the encumbrance, media attention regarding the subject has been inconsistent and inadequate.

    The basis of this subpar coverage is a byproduct of America’s social stigmas.  This crisis could be resolved if a major expansion of proven addiction treatment programs were to be greenlit by government agencies such as the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The reason legislators are not taking sufficient action and news outlets have not implemented the topic into their respective news cycles is because those who become addicted to drugs are ostracized and seen as perpetrators of their own illnesses. Many people who became addicted to opioids did so as a result of pharmaceutical companies assuring the medical community that patients would not become addicted to pain relievers, thus causing healthcare providers to prescribe them at higher rates. This led to widespread misuse before it became clear that these medications could, in fact, become highly addictive.

     The War on Drugs has fostered an environment in which individuals who are addicted to drugs are seen not as victims of a disease, but as perpetrators of their own illness. The press and the American people need to get past the idea that opioid addicts just have to “get their lives together”. Assuming the addict needs to hit rock bottom in order to recover is often deadly in this circumstance, as “rock bottom” often manifests in the form of lethal overdose. If we could reach past the societal mindset in place that establishes drug addiction as taboo, more people would be educated about its dangers. This in turn will lead to prevention and the implementation of programs to help those affected. The popular belief that opioid addiction is a direct derivative of moral failure is preventing proper instruction correlating to the crisis and continuing to make the problem even worse.

The opioid epidemic is a topic everyone needs to be informed about, because failing to give it the necessary attention will cause the ignorant to merely become another statistic in the already widening medical reports.

 

Works Cited:

“Promoting Stigma and Discrimination.” Promoting Stigma and Discrimination | Count The Costs, www.countthecosts.org/seven-costs/promoting-discrimination-and-stigma.

 

Lopez, German. “The Single Biggest Reason America Is Failing in Its Response to the Opioid Epidemic.” Vox.com, 18 Dec. 2017, www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/12/18/16635910/opioid-epidemic-lessons.

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