The opioid epidemic is a crisis that affects families throughout our communities and from all stages and walks of life. Each day lives are lost to this senseless addiction and it crosses all levels of society. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Pennsylvania ranks sixth in the number of deaths related to opioids. Our community deserves real leadership to address this complex crisis.
We are racked with this ever-growing challenge due to the increased availability of opiates and heroin. The overall belief that was perpetrated since the early 1980s was that prescribed drugs were not linked to addiction. The fact is 76% of people who are addicted started using prescribed painkillers for real ailments. According to the Center for Disease Control, overdose death rates increased in every single age group, but the greatest increase was with those aged 55-64. The group with the highest rates of fatal overdose was adults aged 45-54. We need to address this crisis. Pharmaceutical companies and prescribers need to take responsibility for the amounts prescribed and keep track of the number of prescriptions that are given out to individuals through a digitized database as is used with other addictive prescriptions. We have to find new ways to help those who experience chronic pain so they have access to relief. Rehabilitation programs need to be available and covered by healthcare maintenance.
It is essential to bring humanity and compassion into the picture and build support systems to help those dealing with addiction. Together we can take the stigma away from treatment and education. This is an issue of public health and we need collaboration at every level of government to provide the resources necessary. Education and support for our community advocates should continue to be a priority so together we can curb this growing trend.