On Dec. 31, I read yet another explanation for the opioid epidemic, “Why other countries don’t have an opioid epidemic.” It was written by Washington Post reporter Amanda Erickson, and re-printed in the Miami Herald.
She writes: “In no other developed country are people taking and dying from opioids at the rates they are in the United States. We have about 4 percent of the world’s population but about 27 percent of the world’s drug-overdose deaths.”
Although based on evidence gathered in western Europe, this article fails to recognize the most fundamental aspect of the current opioid crisis — addiction itself, and our failure to properly treat the afflicted.
The current crisis is further evidence of a love affair our culture has had with self-medication dating back to the earliest roadside peddlers of elixirs with special formulas to treat everything from “the grip” to “consumption.”
We are a do-it-yourself, independent culture that sometimes lacks the ability to make unwise choices and get away with it. It happens with sex, cellphones, gambling, guns, and yes, drug abuse.
Now, you can blame advertising, or private insurance companies, or inadequate border security, but none of that will solve this problem.
What works is treatment and education.
When a doctor writes a prescription for an addictive substance, he or she should also send the patient to a clinic authorized to monitor proper use and effects of these medicines on patients.
They should also educate the patient on how to recognize signs of dependency, as well as provide treatment alternatives to at-risk individuals.
Addiction of any kind is a medical condition and the cost to treat individuals in an authorized clinic will be far less than what we are currently spending on “drug wars,” burning down opium fields in Afghanistan, incarcerating drug-users, endless litigation, and the human cost of lives lost.