The number one killer of people under the age of 50 is drug overdoses from opioids. To call this a self-inflicted wound is to understate the size and scale of the epidemic, and the way out.
The numbers are staggering. If the current trend continues, half a million Americans are going to die from a drug overdose within the next ten years. Research conducted by academics in the field, according to a report published in the medical industry trade publication STAT, suggests the number may be too conservative. It could be 650,000 people.
Fighting the murderous rampage is University of Houston Associate Professor Dr. Marc Fleming, who got his PhD in health outcomes and pharmacy, and who suggests a good place to begin finding positive outcomes to this drug crisis is to stop looking for a scapegoat. “We have recent lawsuits against pharmaceutical manufacturers. We want to blame the doctors. There’s also patient demand, patient willingness to take these medications. I think we have to stop playing the blame game,” he tells KTRH News. Unique in this drug epidemic, he explains, compared to hippies and musicians in the 1960’s and crack cocaine in the 80’s, is the everyday aspect of its victim’s lives: waitresses, business people, soccer moms, car salesmen, plant workers, and the unemployed, often white, often unnoticed. It starts with opioid prescriptions, and can end with heroin, fentanyl, or other deadly drug cocktails obtained in the black market. Dr. Fleming, a self-described optimist, sees a workable fix. “If we can work together, and by ‘we’ I mean medicine, substance abuse treatment people, federal and state leadership, I think we can solve this thing.” Tapering, he says, is going to be part of the solution, and reducing our dependence on medications in general. And appreciating that these victims began their demise because they were in pain; relieving their suffering will be a group effort.