It is not an opioid epidemic. It is addiction. It is mental illness. It is disease.

Yes, opiate use and abuse is on the rise in the US. The sad truth is that people are dying, overdosing, relapsing, going to jail, and living homeless, due to their use of opiates. Families are hurting, children are being neglected, marriages dissolved, because of opiate addiction.

This is our dark reality, but it is not an opioid epidemic

It would be just as relevant to say we have a nicotine epidemic, a benzodiazepine epidemic, a methamphetamine epidemic, an alcohol epidemic, so on and so forth. For example, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the total provisional count of drug overdose deaths in the US in 2016 attributing to opioids, synthetic opioids, semi-synthetic opioids, and methadone totals 53,0541. This number is staggering, but it is also important to note that an estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. The first is tobacco, and the second is poor diet and physical inactivity.

Benzodiazepine related death is also on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2002 to 2015 there was a 4.3-fold increase in the total number of deaths due to benzodiazepine overdose. Cocaine use is also on the rise.

Addiction is far bigger than just an opioid addiction.

Unfortunately substance disorders are increasing

There are numerous statistics that paint the picture. Substance disorders are a growing issue in our country. The problem is not any specific substance, the problem is that we have people who are suffering from untreated addiction, alcoholism, and mental illness. The problem is that people are addicted.

Woman enjoying opiate highThey are addicted to changing the way they feel

They will use any means necessary, whether it is through prescription drugs, illicit drugs, alcohol, tobacco, cough syrup, Red Bull, and the list goes on. Addiction is about escaping from reality and checking out from the present moment. You take away an opiate addict’s drug of choice, and he will find a sufficient substitute in the form of another substance. It is not an opioid epidemic.

Opiate addiction is a symptom of the problem, just like alcoholism is a symptom of the problem. If we truly want to address the deadly issue, we must get down to causes and conditions and ask WHY we have widespread use of opiates in our country.

Focus on finding solutions

We must keep the focus on a solution to addiction, as opposed to an opioid epidemic. We must not lose sight of this as warriors on the front lines of this disease. Let’s continue to address the root of the problem. Let’s continue to advocate for what our country truly needs. We need to raise awareness that there is a solution, which is rehabilitating people.

1 https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/health_policy/monthly-drug-overdose-death-estimates.pdf

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