There exists a drug crisis gripping our nation with people dying every day from prescription drug overdoses. These are the deaths of moms and dads, sisters and brothers, grandchildren, neighbors and co-workers. As such, at Crime Trackers we are joining public safety and community organizations in taking steps to raise awareness of this nationwide epidemic that now claims more lives in the United States than car accidents.
This crisis is being driven primarily by opioids—prescription opioids, heroin, and synthetic drugs like fentanyl.
But we cannot arrest and prosecute our way out of a problem that is deeply rooted in many communities. Enforcement efforts must be paired with education and rehabilitation for those who have fallen into addiction. As such, we have gotta be committed to addressing the opioid abuse problem with prevention and treatment options.
While public discussions can shed light on the opioid epidemic, real education is rooted in one-on-one conversations in homes and communities. Families should have meaningful conversations about the dangers of prescription drug abuse because the threat is real. Communities need to come together to address the issue because opioid abuse affects everyone.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, in the United States we are seeing more availability, higher purity, and lower price. Dealers are lacing heroin and cocaine with fentanyl—a drug 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin—and they are making counterfeit prescription drugs that in fact are made from fentanyl. As a result, the drugs on the street are now more powerful, more addictive, and more dangerous than ever. And they’re not just dangerous for users: even being accidently exposed to just a few grains of fentanyl can kill a police officer, firefighter or paramedic.
We are facing a public health crisis stemming from the abuse of prescription drugs such as OxyContin and Vicodin, as well as the increased use of heroin and fentanyl. We are not alone. In 2018, there were 67,367 Americans who died from drug overdoses. The rate of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (drugs such as fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and tramadol) increased by 10%, from 9.0 in 2017 to 9.9 in 2018. Millions more in the United States are abusing prescription painkillers. But the deaths tell only part of the story of the opioid epidemic, which also has inflicted a tremendous emotional and financial toll on addicts and their families, and on communities throughout the country.
As a patient advocate and a victim advocate, I have been committed to stemming the flow of illegal drugs for many years and I believe that each of us, together can adopt new strategies to confront the opioid epidemic, spare many families the pain of living through addiction, and save many lives in the process.