The overdosing epidemic

Opiate addiction — especially to heroin and fentanyl — is at epidemic levels in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control, heroin use has more than doubled among young adults over the past decade.

Photo Credit: misterbisson Flickr via Compfight.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) said that drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Estimates place the death toll from opiates at about 33,000, a third of which were heroin related. The ASAM estimates that 23 per cent of individuals who use heroin develop an addiction.

In Connecticut, an estimated 772 people died from heroin and fentanyl overdoses in 2015 (the data is not yet available for 2016). That means 14 out of 100,000 people die per year from heroin and fentanyl overdoses in Connecticut — double the national average.

The rate of heroin and fentanyl overdoses has risen steadily over the past five years and shows no signs of reversing anytime soon.

Trumbull is not immune to the problem. Only one Trumbull resident died from a heroin overdose in 2014, but many residents currently struggle with addiction. The problem is often ignored because it usually stems from prescription drug abuse.

The topic of addiction makes people uncomfortable, which allows the problem to persist. In order to address the issue, people publicly address heroin addiction, its causes, and solutions. Instead, money is inappropriately thrown away on inadequate solutions.

I watched someone very close to me succumb to the life ruining vice of addiction. Large quantities of time, money, and effort were invested into fighting the addiction. However, the most effective method of combating the addiction would have been to treat the underlying mental health issues that became evident in the years leading up to the heroin addiction.

According to the CDC, one of the most effective policies that states and municipalities can enact is to “increase access to substance abuse treatment services, including MAT for opioid addiction.” Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst said last May that in addition to providing Narcane to law enforcement officials, the town planned to place school resource officers at the middle and high schools, This is an important first step, but more must be done regarding mental health of adolescents and young adults.

Too much of the emphasis on attempted heroin addiction treatment is spent on more medications, such as opiate blockers including methadone and Suboxone, and band-aid solutions, like Narcane. Town officials are not investing in treating the underlying mental health issues that lead to addiction.

In order to combat heroin addiction effectively there needs to be an open dialogue among the community about the problem as well as more emphasis on treatment. Treatment services must be more readily available (i.e. along bus routes) and willing to work with people who may not be the most open, honest, or cooperative.

Opiate addicition is a massive health crisis that is becoming more urgent each year. If people do not begin to talk about it now, the problems will persist and become more prominente in the future. People must be willing to talk about addiciton if anything is going to be done and these conversations must start at the town and communtiy level.