A Primer on the Opioid Crisis
There’s a fact worth repeating for its horror: more Americans died from the opioid crisis in 2017 than in the entirety of the Vietnam War. Furthermore, there are an estimated 825 users for every opioid-related fatality. There is no one in this country who doesn’t have a friend, family member, loved-one or community member who isn’t affected by the scourge. The epidemic’s onset was shocking and though we are still reeling, there is good news.
The number of opioid prescriptions being written (where the overwhelmingly majority of users enter the cycle of dependency) and the projected number of overdose deaths is set to diminish in 2020 for the first time since 1990. With naloxone and suboxone becoming more available to those in need, progress is being made.
Institutional change is on the way. For example, the City of Chicago recently led a two-pronged assault on the epidemic. By increasing services to those suffering from opioid addiction and penalizing pharmaceutical companies with both lawsuits and fines, the city managed to address one of the sources and one of the symptoms of the crisis in a single municipal motion. Chicago not only established itself as the country’s most forward-thinking city in regards to the crisis, but broke down a chunk of the municipal stigma–one of the many counterproductive stigmas around this epidemic–walling off progress.
Turning someone’s complex and varied life experience into a statistic, defining someone singularly by their problem, is harmful and counterproductive to the recovery environment. It seems unfixable, all-defining.
Though the prevalence of this model is a travesty, many within and beyond the treatment world regard it as “the way things are.” The cycle of patient blaming that trickles down from the pharmaceutical companies, all the way into the traditional rehabilitation industry that fails its patients with shocking consistency.
This isn’t the way things have to be.
Take Chicago’s word for it.