The preliminary data for fatal drug overdoses in 2017 has been published. Deaths topped rates in 2016 by nearly 10,000. Last year yielded a total of 72,306 and counting reported overdose deaths involving any drugs. Almost 50,000 of these deaths were caused by opioids, the majority of which involved fentanyl, the opioid synthesized in pharmaceutical and underground labs that is over 100 times more potent and fatal than heroin. We have found ourselves wrapped up in the midst of an opioid crisis with the annual overdose death toll tripling since 2002, despite the many initiatives launched by the government, anti-drug organizations, and law enforcement.
What Needs to Be Done?
The answers when it comes to addiction and prevention of overdose death are not simple. In the past few years, we have seen lawsuits brought against doctors and pharmaceutical companies, drug dealers receiving murder charges, plans to open supervised injection sites, redistribution of state funding to support treatment programs, law enforcement agencies cracking down on illicit drug importation, strict regulation and decline of opioid prescriptions, state and federal government brainstorming sessions and actions, and a whole slew of on-the-ground efforts to try to put an end to this crisis.
While all these potential solutions are being put in place and practiced, the amount of overdose deaths is still rising every single day. We aren’t seeing any evidence-based, positive results from our current labor in the fight against the opioid crisis, so it’s hard to tell what more needs to be done and poses some questions about what we’re doing now. Will the work that we are putting towards fighting the opioid crisis take some time before results are visible? Are we targeting the wrong areas of the problem and pushing addicts to seek illicit substances rather than prescription opioids? Should we put more of our focus and funding into the prevention or treatment of substance abuse?
There is no cut-and-dry answer for any of these questions, which leaves us feeling quite powerless and even hopeless, but we can’t give up. As pessimistic as we may feel as individuals about the grave realities of addiction, we can continue to take action in our own lives and rally together to support the cause.
It’s Up to All of Us
If drug overdoses in 2017 are any indicator, approximately 200 people in the US are dying per day, or eight every hour, due to overdose. We never know when or where an overdose will occur, but we can prepare in case we find ourselves witnessing one. Knowing the signs of overdose is the first step. If we notice a person has fallen unconscious, has slow and shallow breathing, begins to shiver or is having seizures they could be experiencing an overdose. Next, we need to know how to keep the person alive. An immediate call to 9-1-1 will bring medics in time and the operator should guide you through what needs to be done until they arrive. Narcan, the opioid overdose reversal emergency medication, should be kept on our person. We can learn how to administer Narcan properly and receive inexpensive or free kits from local advocacy organizations, pharmacies, and law enforcement agencies. Having this knowledge and these tools can help save a life. It may not feel like we’re making much of a difference after reading the shocking statistics, but one less life lost is a victory in this war.
Keeping ourselves educated and aware of the crisis we are dealing with can allow us to stay vigilant in the fight. We can keep pressing our politicians and lawmakers to take further action. We can direct people who may be suffering in the right direction towards help. We can donate to advocacy and scholarship organizations which help addicts receive treatment at little to no cost. The options in our personal lives are endless and although they may be a drop in the bucket, the ripple they cause can be tremendous. Don’t become another statistic – if you or a loved one are struggling with opioid addiction, reach out to us for help today.