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We need to talk about things

First Lady Melania Trump has advised that suicide is on the rise in the United States “as people struggle with loneliness and addiction and feel they have nowhere to turn.” She has asked that everyone – including the media – talk more about the issues related to addiction, to help eliminate associated stigma and encourage those with this disease to reach out for help.

“You are worth it,” she said.

Opioid overdose is now the leading cause of death in people under the age of 50 in the United States. Every 11 minutes, someone in America dies from opioid overdose, advises American Addiction Centers in Tennessee. That agency is promoting Overdose Awareness Day on Monday, Aug. 31. The pandemic, the agency reiterates, may have worsened the opioid crisis. The CDC reports that “128 people die every day from an opioid overdose (including prescription and illicit opioids.)”

What we know about the opioid crisis, says the CDC, is that 21-29 percent of patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them with 8-12 percent of them developing an opioid use disorder. Further, 4-6 percent who misuse those medications turn to heroin use. Most striking of all, perhaps, is that 80 percent of people with a heroin addiction started with the misuse of prescription opioids. We need to know about these data when our physicians strive to help us to deal with pain and to achieve wellness. We need to talk about these things.

In addition to the increasing number of opioid overdoses is “the rising incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome due to opioid use and misuse during pregnancy,” says the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Also, HIV and hepatitis C are spreading. We need to talk about these things. We need to know consequences for actions so we can protect not just ourselves, but the people we love and our unborn children.

In Ohio, 2018 saw a decrease in opioid overdoses. Data for 2019 will not be released until 2021. But COVID-19 entered the playing field eight months ago. And we have known that isolation has had considerable affects on the mental health of many people. The documentation exists that suicide rates are rising.

The CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/opioids/prescribed.html) says that “Prescription opioids can be used to treat moderate-to-severe pain and are often prescribed following surgery or injury, or for health conditions such as cancer.” But in more recent times, they say, the drugs have been accepted for the treatment of chronic, non-cancer pain, in spite of the risks involved or their long-term effectiveness. Common prescription opioids include oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine and methadone.

“To reverse this epidemic,” the CDC says, “we need to improve the way we treat pain. We must prevent abuse, addiction and overdose before they start.”

We need to talk about these things.

Monday is Opioid Overdose Awareness Day. It seems like a good time to begin talking more about substance misuse because it’s important to the future of everyone, every community. Everyone has been affected by substance misuse in some way, even if we haven’t experienced addiction ourselves. Learn about addiction. Share the knowledge that you glean.

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