Opiate Addiction Reaches Critical Proportions
It may have taken twenty years of increasing overdose trends, constant crime, hundreds of billions of dollars in economic backlash, and millions of families ruined, but the United States now finally recognizes the opiate epidemic as being a legitimate epidemic. The current opiate epidemic of our country is the worst ever recorded in the U.S., with the drug problem claiming tens of thousands of lives every year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than eight million Americans have fallen prey to an opiate addiction, which is more than seven percent of the adult population of the U.S.
President Trump Recognizes the Opiate Epidemic
In October of 2017, President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis as a, “National Public Health Emergency.” The declaration was the first of its kind, hailed by many as a move in the right direction, hailed by others as a, “Little too little, a little too late.”
All politics aside, it is important that we come together and recognize this problem for what it is. We need to be able to see it, recognize it, and fix it. By officially labeling the problem as a national public health emergency, the President has forced the nation to see it and recognize it. Now we have to fix it.
Potential Approaches for Tackling Opioid Addiction
The greatest challenge rests ahead of the U.S. now, one of removing what may be the worst substance abuse epidemic the country has ever struggled with. There are multiple ways to approach this crisis, all of which need to be worked on to produce effective results:
- Intensive rehabilitation for those addicted. This is of course the most apparent and needed approach to addressing opiate addiction. Those poor souls who are currently addicted need help, as they won’t be able to get off of opiates without professional assistance. Opiate addicts need inpatient care for professional withdrawal off of opiates as well as professional therapy and counseling for the psychological implications of addiction.
- Prevention campaigns. Prevention is very important, because it serves to literally prevent others from becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol. It is far easier to prevent someone from becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol than it is to rehabilitate someone who is already addicted. Prevention includes law enforcement efforts, increased legislation, increased regulation over pharmaceutical companies that make opiates, increased testing at employment locations, increased border patrol, more DEA activity, etc.
- Education campaigns. Education is the untapped resource of fighting the war on drugs. When people really know what they are getting into with drug use, they are far less likely to take part in drug use. Education programs are especially helpful for young people in showing them the truth about drugs and alcohol and why they should stay away from substances.
Now that the opiate epidemic has been recognized for what it is, our attention shifts to the future and what might come of the next few years. The current administration was already able to allocate seven billion dollars in government funding to apply directly to the opiate crisis, and the Trump Administration is petitioning Congress for eleven billion more.
But this is not a problem the government will solve on their own. The opiate epidemic got to be an epidemic by millions of Americans contributing to it. Reducing the epidemic and making it a thing of the past will thus need millions of Americans contributing to that. We all need to get behind this effort and actively contribute to drug rehabilitation, prevention, and education.