As so many families and friends of victims know all too well, opioid abuse has penetrated every corner of the country – white, black, and latino; rich, middle class, and poor; young and old. Whereas heroin was once a taboo drug that evoked fear and revulsion, years of the over-prescription of painkillers like Vicodin and Oxycodone by doctors (largely at the behest of pharmaceutical companies) has led millions of otherwise normal Americans to the lure of the much cheaper and stronger high.
Heroin addiction has been destroying good families and tearing communities apart for more than a decade, but the coverage in the mainstream media has rarely reflected the urgency of the problem.
Now, finally, this is beginning to change as numerous politicians and other high-profile public officials have sounded the alarm on a national scale.
In the first minutes of his final State of the Union address, President Obama shined a huge spotlight on this epidemic, stating, “I hope we can work together on some bipartisan priorities like criminal justice reform, and helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse.”
Shortly after the State of the Union, Democratic presidential hopefuls also joined the conversation. During the Democratic primary debate on January 17th, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked about her plan that would treat drug addiction as a health issue rather than a stigmatized criminal one, as well as changing policing protocol. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was quick to agree with the Senator’s points, saying that pharmaceutical companies are also playing a significant role in the drug addiction epidemic, and need to be held accountable. On the Republican side, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pledged $100 million towards substance abuse and mental health initiatives on January 16th. Christie said, “If we give people the tools and support they need to overcome this disease…we can help people reclaim their lives.” Ohio Governor John Kasich similarly implored politicians on January 28 to “give people a chance” – referring to heroin addicts and others living in “the shadows.” Political affiliations aside, it is encouraging to have these issues discussed in the national discourse.
After all, 47,055 Americans died of an opiate-related drug overdose in 2014, a rate similar to the HIV epidemic when it was at its peak in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Heroin is making especially deep inroads into the middle class and rural communities. Once thought of as a drug exclusive to inner cities, dealers are making their way into suburbs, selling to working professionals and teenagers.
Not surprisingly, then, this staggering statistic is going to get worse before it gets better. In an effort to see these levels decline, authorities are testing new alternatives to the traditional rotating door, in-and-out of jail criminal justice policy. Chief Campanello of Gloucester, Massachusetts, for example, is leading the way of treating this addiction as a disease, rather than criminal behavior. Any user that acknowledges their addiction is steered toward treatment with a partnering facility rather than a jail cell.
Of course, the most important takeaway from all this media coverage is to get help for those who are in need.
We offer a sedation-assisted rapid opiate detox therapy program for a safe and full recovery. Our board-certified doctors support all our patients’ recovery from the beginning of treatment through aftercare. Our primary goal is to return all of our patients to a healthy, functioning lifestyle. Please get in touch with us today if you or a loved one is in need of help.