Opioid crisis is costing more than you think

Published 8:00 pm Thursday, April 5, 2018

One thing most Americans can agree upon is that the opioid crisis in the United States is at epidemic levels, but according to a new Associated Press poll released this week, just 53 percent of Americans view prescription drug addiction as a disease that requires medical treatment.

Even more troubling is that fewer than 1 in 5 Americans are willing to closely associate with someone suffering from drug addiction as a friend, co-worker or neighbor.

Opioids are an addictive class of drugs that includes both prescription medicines like Vicodin and OxyContin and illicit drugs like heroin and fentanyl. Overdose deaths linked to the drugs have quadrupled since 2000, reaching an all-time high of 42,000 in 2016.

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According to the AP poll, more than 1 in 10 Americans say they have had a relative or close friend die from an opioid overdose, which begs the question why more Americans are not willing to assist those dealing with this wave of addiction that is also in our community.

Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said pain medication misuse and opioid addiction is second to marijuana in the county.

“I believe the overdose crisis we’re seeing with the true narcotics and semi-synthetic narcotics is something that unfortunately we saw coming 15 or 20 years ago, as we began to see a rise in the misuse and abuse of pain medication,” Pace is quoted in a June 2017 Vicksburg Post article.

The drug crisis has also dragged down the national life expectancy, strained local budgets and challenged officials at every level of government. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation released Thursday found large employers spent a record $2.6 billion to treat opioid addiction and overdoses in 2016, an eightfold increase since 2004.

This is a problem for all of us, even if you have not been directly impacted, funding this crisis is costing all of us in the pocketbook. The federal government is set to spend $4.6 billion on the opioid recovery effort, which is about three times more than what is currently spent on the epidemic for treatment, prevention and law enforcement.

But communities, even ours, need to do more to support those dealing with addiction.