Opioid Abuse in the United States has reached epidemic levels. The epidemic is acute and only threatening to get worse. The problem has spread across every social barrier and is only going to keep increasing over time. A drastic change to current policy is needed to change the direction in which the United States is headed.
Averting a National Crisis
President Obama sat down on Wednesday with Dr. Sanjay Gupta to discuss and highlight this national crisis that, as he put it, is “costing Lives and devastating communities.” This national health crisis is still poorly understood by the public and the resources needed to address the problem are under sourced. The fact that more people are dying annually from opioid overdoses than traffic accidents alone is jaw dropping. In 2013, the death toll from drug overdoses totaled 46,471 putting it in the lead over traffic accidents, which totaled 35,369, and firearm deaths, 33,636.
Addiction is a disease and it is treatable. The treatment of an addicted person requires support and education to regain one’s health and stay abstinent from all mood and mind altering substances. Many people who find themselves addicted to a substance do not know how to get themselves out of the vicious cycle that is addiction. The addicted person needs to know that there is hope and a way out. We, as Americans, need to make sure that there is every opportunity for those in need of support to receive it in a quick and orderly manner.
Disease Model vs Morale Decision
We as a whole need to shift the view of the abuse of drugs from being a criminal issue to actually being a health issue. Someone using drugs to drown out reality is not likely going to admit that they have a problem if they will be told that they are less than or inherently bad. These people are simply sick. The only way to really change the direction society is headed is to shift the public opinion regarding drug use. In order to change public opinion, we need more education and the medium by which to touch people across all social divides.
Unlike many health problems that society views to be more pertinent, addiction is usually put off. We do not ask heart attack patients to wait weeks, months or years to get the help they need, so why do we as a society ask people suffering from the disease of addiction to wait and then shame them for their current predicament? Addiction treatment absolutely must be available at the time that treatment is requested by the addicted person, no exceptions.
Is Reducing the Demand of RX Drugs the Answer?
Americans today are looking down the barrel of a gun. In the president’s words, the most important aspect of the drug problem is to reduce the demand for drugs in the first place. The only way to achieve that decrease in demand is to treat the individual by offering support services such as individual and group counseling. In our culture of “access” and a pill for any and everything in life, it is really no wonder that we as a nation are horribly addicted. Doctors are quick to write out a script for almost anything, which, in turn, helps the addict to continue on their course of drug abuse.
Our country as a whole needs to understand how to approach the disease of addiction and treat it as a public health crisis and not as a moral disappointment or a personal failure. Addiction reaches everyone. We need to streamline the path to recovery to give as many possible the opportunity to find support and, ultimately, recover.