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In my local town, over the past couple months there have been public advertisements in the transit buses. At first, they came as large, long winded banner announcements with small font detailing what the Good Samaritan law is (a law that allows the person helping another person to have some legal protections if he or she is acting in good intention to help someone), how to spot a drug overdose, and how do deal with it, including calling 911. The next incarnation of announcements were a lot bolder with a more direct call to action. The advertisement tells one not to run when you see someone, but to call 911 and administer narcan if you have it (Narcan is a nasal spray that works to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose). Even my high school teacher’s son passed away due to a drug overdose. The drug crisis in the United States is a devastatingly silent epidemic that has been sweeping the nation.
The opioid crisis is the United States’ deadliest health crisis to date (New York Times). Currently, the death rate has been estimated to be at 90 people per day, and the death toll reached up to 56,000 in 2016 alone. Its rate has even surpassed the AIDS epidemic at its peak (New York Times). When talking about this crisis, it’s important to note that these deaths make up deaths from both illicit drugs and synthetic drugs such as heroin and fentanyl, but overdoses have also come from prescription drug abuse from drugs like oxycodone (ASAM). This crisis has hit adolescents from 12 to 17 especially hard. In 2015, it was recorded that 276,000 currently used pain relievers for non medical reasons, and of that number, 122,000 had an addiction to them.
While the opioid crisis has been such an epidemic and has had such a large effect on our society, there has not been as much national press as there should be. However, there have been steps taken to attempt to help this crisis. For instance, Walgreens has started to stock narcan nationwide, and in 45 states out of 50, anyone is able to get it without an individual prescription (Daily Herald). Walgreens is also currently trying to work with the last 5 states to try to make the drug more easily attainable. The idea is that people are able to get narcan to be able to have on hand just in case. It's incredulous that we live in an era where private citizens are being encouraged to carry narcan just in case someone near them is overdosing. While it’s true that more steps could be taken as of now, this is a great first step to officially start helping the communities suffering from these overdoses.
The current epidemic of opioid overdosage has been a scourge across the nation. Even if you personally do not have someone you know that has had to cope with loss due to opioids, it is important to remember that all of these deaths, all 56,000, were of someone’s family member, someone’s friend, or partner. Personally, all of us in our school, home town, and I were shocked and saddened when my high school teacher's son died of an overdose. My teacher is an amazing man who is beloved by the community. So, if you think the people affected by this crisis are somehow bad people or different from yourself, you would be wrong, as this crisis is touching all classes, races, and, sadly, primarily affecting the young.
However, it is good to remember that we are taking steps as a nation towards attempting to quell this issue. It is imperative that we come together in compassion and humanity to help each other in this trying time.