Lessons from Laura

Lessons from Laura

The Forgotten Pandemic

A New Milestone 100,000 Overdose Deaths

Lessons from Laura

Laura Bradfield

Addiction:  The Forgotten Pandemic

Article by Carolyn Bradfield
December 1, 2021

You can't turn on the TV, watch the news, or engage in a conversation with your friends without hearing the words "pandemic", "covid", "variant" or "booster".  You would think this is the only health crisis worldwide from the extreme amount of attention that it garners.  But there is another pandemic that has been forgotten and it's ravaged our country for over a decade - the disease of addiction.

100,000 Overdose Deaths

We now know in the United States alone, we reached a milestone of deaths from overdose in only a year.  Having said that overdose deaths, a preventable tragedy, have been hovering around 70,000 each and every year and have been a consistent killer of those suffering from the disease of addiction for at least the last decade fueled by the Opioid Crisis and now Fentanyl.  And that 100K number only reflects deaths from overdose.  What about those addicts who give up and die by suicide?  Or those who die from other health complications?  

Pandemic or Epidemic?

Addiction is classified as a a disease of the brain, so certainly words we use to describe a health crisis fit here.  So is this an epidemic or can we use the same term that COVID is described with, "Pandemic".  The difference in the two terms is that an epidemic only affects a local region or community, but a pandemic goes across regional or country boundaries.  Addiction is not confined to the United States but affects individuals around the globe and from all socio-economic backgrounds.

Where is the outrage about deaths from the Addiction Pandemic?

We rarely hear about the deaths from overdose or addiction-related complications on the news.  Perhaps this is because we think of addiction as a disease of choice vs. COVID that you catch from viral transmission.  Most individuals become addicted before their 18th birthday having experimented with substances before their brain has fully formed.  They made the first choice to try the substance but all of a sudden their brain compels them to make other choices that fuel the disease.   

We are told to wear a mask, socially distance and get the shot to prevent illness and death, but there seems to be no clear cut message about how to prevent the spread of addiction.

How do we fight the Addiction Pandemic?

Let's take a lesson from how we have managed through COVID and apply some of those same thought processes:

  • Elevate the conversation.  Addiction and its deaths and complications should be front and center on the news, focused on in press conferences, and in the media.
  • Get creative.  We have beat back COVID because we tried lots of different ways to do it:  prevention strategies, vaccines, medical treatments.  Let's apply that same creativity to addiction.
  • Fund it.  The Trump Whitehouse had a well funded $38B+ Opioid Task Force to make an impact, particularly in rural communities.  How can you "build back better" if people are dying all around you?
  • Attack the source.  If you don't believe that there are organizations responsible for the Pandemic, watch "Dopesick".  If you wonder where these drugs are coming from, check out the lack of security at our borders.  We shut down flights from Africa to prevent the next COVID variant, but fail to secure our borders to stop the influx of Fentanyl.  

Addiction is a pandemic and it's robbing us of our most vulnerable citizens - those who developed the disease early in their lives and who don't have the support to beat it.  100,000 in 1 year.  Shocking, unacceptable, preventable.