While the world has been making its way through the pandemic for the past few years, drug addiction has been – well – rampant and raging. In fact, mental health issues overall have been on the rise, which is not surprising, considering what has been going on in the world. Did you know that the opioid crisis has not only been continuing, but the number of overdose deaths has quadrupled since 1999?
Here are a few startling statistics. More than 70% of all drug-related deaths in 2019 involved the use of an opioid. Opioid death rates increased by over 6% between 2018 and 2019. While opioid death rates by prescription decreased by about 7%, and heroin (or opiate) death rates decreased by over 6%, opioid (i.e., synthetic opiates) death rates increased by more than 15%.
In 2020, prescription opioid related deaths were back up to 16,416 only in America, and that was using a tracking system. (We have to wonder how many never got reported.) Opioid related deaths in 2020 represented a staggering 74.8% of all drug-related deaths in America.
A study was conducted concerning geographic trends and opioid related deaths between 1999 and 2020 to see if it played a role. Indeed, it does. Overdose death rates in more rural areas have been escalating more quickly than in urban areas.
Beth Macy's recent book (called Raising Lazarus) is a powerful, heart-wrenching testimony to the seriousness of America's opioid crisis. It moves from the question why it exists to how it can be overcome.
So, what else can be done? Since around 75% or so of addiction to opioids and opiates starts with legal prescriptions for pain, we can continue to limit prescription opioids (or completely eliminate it). We can refocus on the flow of illegal opioids into America. We can continue to encourage people with such issues to get into treatment, thereby hopefully reducing harm overall.
There is a large prevention movement within the US, and we need to refocus on that effort. Perhaps more importantly, we need to improve it to make it more effective. Not enough money is being allocated for prevention efforts targeting children, adolescents, and young adulthood. Only 8% of teens and young adults who needed treatment for substance use issues actually received it, and there are still issues with access to treatment which are connected to one’s socio-economic status as well as a still-present stigma attached to people who become victims of addiction.
And there’s the issue of natural, holistic approaches to health (including diet, supplementation, mindfulness practices, etc.) which need to be implemented more pervasively. When kids grow up with healthy bodies, that paves the way for them to be able to make more healthy decisions when it comes to starting and certainly continuing drug use. Combining mental health treatment, healthy nutrition education and implementation, and prevention efforts could indeed spell significantly lower addiction/death rates. Think about what that can do to our overall rates of mental health! It’s definitely worth studying that even more than is currently being done.
And, as always, please have a happy, holistically healthy day!
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