Galveston is a well-known coastal city in Texas, immortalized in a Glen Campbell song from the late 1960s. Currently, the population hovers around 47,000 people – the same number of Americans lost each year to drug overdoses. However, because these 47,000 deaths are spread out across 50 states and 365 days, perhaps it’s possible to overlook the true extent of the problem. If the entire population of Galveston suddenly overdosed and died in one day, the entire country would grasp the true nature of the problem. Suddenly, there would be no shortage of news coverage or national attention riveted on this problem.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced this number on New Year’s Day 2016, noting a new record set for this cause of death. What this means is that every eleven minutes, someone in America breathes their last after ingesting, inhaling or injecting a drug.
Which Drugs are Causing an Increased Number of Deaths?
Opiates and opioids were the front-runners in causing deaths. This category includes heroin, morphine, codeine and painkillers OxyContin, Vicodin, Lortab, Percocet, methadone, Norco, oxymorphone and fentanyl. The individual drug with the greatest increase was fentanyl – an extremely strong painkiller that is very limited in its use because of its ability to kill. A couple of years ago, it was rare to find heroin that had been diluted with fentanyl but recently, illicitly-manufactured fentanyl has hit the market. It’s cheap and can now be found in multiple states as an adulterant of heroin. The number of people killed by fentanyl increased 80% in just one year because of this development. Those buying this killer heroin never know what it’s mixed with.
Here’s some other significant facts from this CDC report:
- The age group with the greatest increase was 25 to 34 years of age, increasing from 8,947 deaths in 2013 to 10,055 in 2014.
- Among children 14 years old and younger, 109 died of overdoses.
- Highest rates of overdose deaths were seen by West Virginia, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Ohio.
- Sixty-one percent of these deaths came from some type of opioid, including heroin.
- In 2014, there were approximately one-and-a-half times as many deaths from overdoses as traffic accidents.
- Overdose deaths involving prescription pain relievers have been increasing for 15 years.
- Heroin overdoses have more than tripled in the last four years.
Is There a Solution?
There is a solution but like most social problems, it’s not simple or instant. Here’s some of the actions that can contribute to the resolution of this tragedy. Some of the solutions are in the hands of parents and other people who care for or instruct children, some are medical and some are in the drug rehab field.
- Parents must make it very clear that they expect their children to remain drug-free until they are 21 years of age. That means no alcohol, no marijuana and certainly no prescription drug abuse.
- When educating kids on drugs, the problems related to drug abuse should be made very clear, never exaggerating the dangers, but explaining the risk of death from use of such drugs as painkillers, synthetic marijuana, Ecstasy and alcohol. Of course, the abuse of any of today’s drugs also carries the risk of addiction and great loss across the boards.
- Parents should lead the way in setting a good example of sobriety for kids. Teachers, coaches and anyone else working with kids should also set a good example. The more adults that join in, the better. Celebrities have a powerful voice to add to this effort.
- Students in every school should be offered a drug prevention curriculum that has been proven to actually reduce drug abuse. Typically, drug prevention program surveys only measure whether or not students recall what they were told. The Narconon drug prevention program has been proven to actually reduce drug use. Visit our website for more information: http://www.narconon.org/drug-prevention/.
- At this time, the U.S. media is carrying news of a call for more medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for all those addicted to opioids. MAT refers to the use of methadone or buprenorphine to replace the opioids they were taking. Both these drugs are themselves opioids, are addictive and are abused by addicts. MAT can be of assistance is getting a person out of a criminal or marginal lifestyle and onto a prescription drug with a controlled dosage. But it is not an effective long-term solution. What does work is offering addicted people a way to overcome the intense cravings for more drugs and helping them build lives in which they don’t feel the need to escape into drug abuse. The Narconon program has offered this kind of help to tens of thousands of people over the last fifty years.
Across the country, there are tens of thousands of hardworking people fighting this problem in schools, clubs, communities, hospitals, law enforcement departments and drug rehab centers. It’s tempting to get discouraged when the number of people we lose keeps going up. But so many of these people will never quit as long as lives are being needlessly lost this way. We are proud to work alongside these professionals, volunteers and grieving parents who refuse to give up the fight to save lives.