Battling the Heroin Overdose Epidemic

If you have been following the news over the last year, you have probably heard somewhere or other about the heroic epidemic that is facing our country. It is no joke and is one of the worst crisis’s we have ever faced. Unfortunately, this epidemic is out of sight and out of mind for some people, unless you are close to a heroin addict or have known someone who has died from a heroin overdose. Heroin addiction treatment levels are at an all-time high.

The data is cringeworthy. In 2015, 52,000 people died of drug overdoses. Approximately two-thirds of them were due to opioids like heroin, OxyContin, and prescription painkillers like fentanyl. To provide a comparison, the next greatest epidemic we have ever faced was 43,000 people who died due to AIDS in 1995. It’s more than the 36,000 people who died due to gun violence in 2015. It’s more than the 38,000 people who died in car crashes in that same year. In fact, even with today’s modern medical advances, the overdose epidemic has actually reduced our life expectancy for the first time in over 20 years. The numbers are staggering, but how did they get that way?

One of the most popular theories is that it has been brought on by big pharma. There is a huge market for the treatment of pain and it is estimated that over one hundred million people have some need for the treating pain. As the market for painkillers grew, so did the frequency of deaths due to overdose. According to the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board, the U.S. consumes 50,000 opioid doses per every million people, per day. That is 20,000 more than the next closest country, Canada. In 2012, just 5 years ago, doctors wrote 259 million prescriptions, which is a whole bottle of pills for each adult in the country! Guess who is making all of that money from each one? Big pharma. People have become hooked on painkillers and many more seek out regular heroin when the painkillers don’t really do it for them anymore.

What Can Be Done?

It’s pretty much been proven that the war on drugs at the user level doesn’t work, which leads us to the first idea of providing heroin treatment.

  1. Stop arresting addicts.

We need to focus on treating the addictions instead of throwing people in jail, using up valuable resources. Focus instead on the suppliers and create an open door policy that will allow people to seek help, similar to turning in a gun with no questions asked.

  1. Offer access to Naloxone

Naloxone is a drug that blocks the possibility of overdosing on heroin. Make it over the counter so that it can be easily accessed by anyone that might need it.

  1. Safe injection sites.

This can offer an alternative to being out on the street, with no one around if an overdose were to happen. This idea comes under a lot of opposition because some think it will just end up being another place that people can get high but essentially sponsored by the government. Still, it would save lives and many countries have “safe zones” for similar types of issues.

Heroin addiction treatment centers should continue to reach out and keep educating the public as much as possible, however, there doesn’t currently seem to be any end in sight. We can only pray for those that need help.

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