We all know someone whose life has been impacted by a drug overdose. CDC statistics show that overdoses in The United States increased to 63,632 in 2016. 66% of these were due to illicit or prescription opioids. It is spreading both geographically and across all demographic groups in our country.
What is truly alarming is that the majority of these deaths can be attributed to the synthetic opioid called fentanyl. This is a powerful drug and is often found mixed in heroin, cocaine and benzodiazepine pills. The pro drug can be easily obtained online and sent to your doorstep. It is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS.
What can we do?
Coordinated and synchronized programs will be needed to prevent drug overdoses according to Dr. Puja Seth from the CDC. These programs will need to involve law enforcement, first responders, mental health substance abuse providers, and community partners. Physicians across all specialties must decrease their prescribing of opioids as well. We should screen patients who may be at risk for substance abuse. We should follow practice and prescribing guidelines. We can use alternative therapies to relieve pain.
This epidemic not only destroys young lives, but it also destroys families. Society must remove the stigma associated with substance abuse and realize it truly is a disease like diabetes and hypertension. This will encourage more people to seek treatment.