Getting the Opioid Epidemic Right

The numbers are staggering. Until about a month ago, we had thought drug overdoses were responsible for some 52,000 American lives in 2015. Now the most recent reporting reveals that number may be closer to 60,000 in 2016.

Think about that: We could now build the equivalent of one Vietnam Memorial Wall a year given the carnage we are wreaking on ourselves with drug abuse.

The majority of these drug overdoses are opioid-related, and there has been a fair amount of reporting on them. But, given the rising death toll—much greater than the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s—not nearly enough. And not nearly enough has been said by our political or cultural leaders. When it is discussed, too often the narrative is wrong and the solutions too singularly focused.

First, our political, journalist, and cultural leadership must get the cause of the opioid epidemic right. Most write and speak about prescription drug abuse. That is a big problem, but it is not the only problem nor is it the part of the opioid epidemic that is exploding today.

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