In the early part of this year, the United States House of Representatives passed sweeping legislation addressing our national opioid crisis. Over 50 bills were sent to the United States Senate.
Since that time, new statistics have been released that in the year 2017 we lost 72,000 Americans due to drug overdoses. This totals 197 individuals per day. If any other disease took that many lives a day, we would declare it a public health emergency–which should demand an immediate and focused response from all of our systems of care.
We must also recognize this crisis is not relegated to individual deaths, but entire lives ruined, families destroyed, and millions lost in wages and in treatment due to drug addiction. The problem is pervasive, complex and devastating to American society.
I recognize many important issues are attracting a great deal of political debate.
However, addictions when measured against the devastation occurring in almost every city, county, and community in America other consequences we argue over pale in comparison.
Perhaps the stigma of drug usage has prevented us from making it a priority.
However, we must realize there is a high correlation of trauma associated with drug use. In other words, those who take drugs often have had something happen to them that has created a great deal of brain dysregulation.
Many have consequentially become addicted because of medicating previous physical or emotional pain. Yes, too, there are those who use it recreationally, but this crisis is far more serious than casual or recreational use.
Many states are moving ahead with interventions and treatment programs.
The media is replete with messaging to discuss the seriousness of drug addiction. Many healthcare providers are moving ahead with their own new treatment programs. Our justice systems are absolutely overwhelmed with users who are in the system and need help. Halfway houses are full and unable to keep up with the demand for more services to more individuals who struggle with addictions.
The opioid overdose issue is a significant public health crisis in America. I don’t think we can wait to take some meaningful steps to work on this issue. After all, every day we wait means 197 more deaths and many more who are finding themselves helplessly addicted to powerful prescription and illegal drugs.
I think there should be bipartisan support in our national politics is on this issue.
Perhaps this support would be a unifying legislative agenda to spur some positive change and hope not only for those who care for those who have struggles with addiction, but also for those who are personally addicted.
I think we should all connect with our local, state and federal legislators to insist we give this problem the public health crisis status that it deserves. The time is now to move this legislation and funding forward. It is too destructive to our society to wait any longer.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO