Chemical weapons of mass destruction on US soil
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America is under attack. Chemical weapons of mass destruction are now in every city nationwide in the form of opioid drugs. Just as in the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s, death rates are going up, families are stripped of their assets and people are sent to prison when what they really need is treatment.

Americans are particularly vulnerable to opioid use right now because the painkillers are widely available. In addition, drugs offer some relief from the chronic stress of current socioeconomic conditions and untreated mental illness. Drugs may offer immediate relief from uncomfortable emotional states, but only cause more anguish over time.

Drugs are effective weapons. Not only are they profitable with regard to sales, addiction makes people very easy to exploit. Drug addiction invariably leads to loss of not only assets, but also opportunities, relationships, dignity, freedom and/or life.

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Drug overdose death rates are increasing exponentially, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) that used data from the National Vital Statistics System Mortality File.

 

Opioids are the biggest problem, and every demographic is affected. In 2015, the age-adjusted rate of drug overdose was 16.3 per 100,000, which was 2.5 times that in 1999. The greatest increases were noted in the following groups:

  • Those 55 to 64 years of age

  • Non-Hispanic whites

  • Heroin users

  • Residents of West Virginia, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Ohio

Male deaths increased an average of 5 percent a year since 1999 and females increased 6 percent a year.

In addition to heroin, natural and semisynthetic opioids, methadone, synthetic opioids, cocaine and other psychostimulants were also common killers.

These statistics do not reflect the number of people who have overdosed and survived or the tens of millions of Americans who are using these drugs but have not yet overdosed.

The report states, “Of the drug overdose deaths in 2015, 84 percent were unintentional, 10 percent were suicides, 6 percent were of undetermined intent and less than 1 percent were homicides.” Although, it could be argued that they were all homicides.

Only the American people can end this attack by not falling prey to drug use and helping future generations to do the same. In the meantime, those who do find themselves with a drug addiction must understand that effective treatment is available. Coming off the drugs and/or alcohol no longer needs to involve suffering, thanks to innovations like nutritionally assisted detoxification and medication-assisted therapy.

In a recent article, Newt Gingrich, Van Jones and Patrick Kennedy urged President Trump to change those policies that serve as barriers to treatment, reform the criminal justice system to replace jail with treatment, and secure funding “to treat addiction  as the public health emergency that it is … The bottom line — breaking down barriers to opioid addiction treatment that works will save lives and money.” Recovery can be the weapon people use to win this war.

Dana Connolly, Ph.D., is a senior staff writer for Sovereign Health, a behavioral health treatment provider with locations throughout the United States. She earned her Ph.D. in research and theory development from New York University and has decades of experience in clinical care, medical research and health education.


The views of contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.