Opioid crisis: Take it personally | Moment's Notice

Aug. 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day
By Maria Montalvo | Aug 31, 2017

Take a moment to think about that person who you cherish or admire or idolize. There is someone who makes you believe that people really can be exceptional, and embody remarkable traits that are elusive to you and to most.

At times, this person seems just a touch super-human, so special that you wonder how he does not get paid a salary just for existing, or at least you believe that he should. No one else seems to care as much, shine as bright or make others feel so significant.

I think of that someone every day.

This Thursday, Aug. 31, is International Overdose Awareness Day. The mission is clear – to raise awareness of overdoses and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. It also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who died or suffered permanent injury as a result of a drug overdose.

Addiction, drug abuse, the opioid crisis.

Are the media beginning to tire of these words already? Another hyped story used by politicians to get attention? How about instead one of the most underreported crises in our recent history? The United States accounts for more than 25 percent of the estimated 190,000 drug-related deaths worldwide, and the number is rising each year, according to the United Nations’ 2017 World Drug Report.

Mostly driven by legal prescription opioids, overdose deaths in the U.S. more than tripled from 1999 to 2015, from 16,849 to 52,404 annually. 52,404 people in 2015. That is nearly four times the number from car accidents, higher than most types of cancer.

The number of Americans who die from overdoses is expected to exceed 65,000 this year, and the majority are young (the highest rates are from 25-55 year olds). That does not even account for the many overdoses that do not result in death and, as was recently reported in the Edmonds Beacon, Snohomish County saw 37 overdoses in just one week.

How does this relate to you? Drug abuse and addiction directly impact our daily lives.

Even if you do not know someone who has overdosed, we know someone who has hurt themselves or others because of a substance-abuse problem.

Mental health disorders are worsened (or even initiated by) the use of drugs. One in five Americans suffer from some type of mental health illness each year, and more than half suffer at some point in their life.

From petty theft and more serious one-on-one criminal behavior to corruption and organized crime, drugs play a primary role. We all know someone who has experienced crime or been hurt by it.

News of terrorist attacks across the globe are tragic and sobering, and more of us each day know someone touched by the violence, not to mention those fighting in or trapped by wars because of it. Terrorism is funded by drugs.

The reality of the drug trade and addiction is relevant to every human’s ability to pursue happiness, to live a fruitful life surrounded by loved ones.

Like any crisis in a society, no matter how clear the evidence or how widespread the impacts, it is understood when it is personal.

So think again about that person you imagined at the beginning of this column – that person you adore. Now think of that person no longer being next to you. Not lost after a full life of experiences (successes and failures, great loves, happiness and moments of pain), but instead dead abruptly and too soon because of drugs.

This will not be a hypothetical exercise for the families and friends of more than 65,000 Americans this year – it is real pain and helplessness and guilt that haunts someone who loses a loved one to overdose.

I do not wish that on anyone.

 

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