A Comprehensive View of the Opioid Epidemic

There is little doubt that opioid addiction is a health crisis in this country, as well as others. No matter how one measures it, and there are, actually, too many ways, the number of ambulance runs, the numbers of patients transported for overdoses, the number of overdose deaths, too many people and families have been affected by this drug epidemic

But we are not looking at it comprehensively... We are arguing about, and applying bandaids. We are discussing whether addiction is a disease or a crime. Do we treat addicts, or jail them? How much money, how much Narcane is a human life worth? These are stupid arguments that do not and will not solve the problem.

Here, in Wilmington, where we have a serious opioid addiction problem, and a chemical company dumping toxic chemicals into our water supply, I can liken the disease or crime, the treatment or jail arguments to "do we need a reverse osmosis plant or just increased filtration to remove the toxins from our drinking water". Neither is comprehensive. Neither solves the real problem. They just kick the can down the road or over the next ridge.

In the toxic drinking water scenario, the real answer is to keep the chemical company from dumping their waste into our water in the first place. When it comes to drug addiction, the answer is to keep people from becoming addicted in the first place.

We may be able to stop the flow of drugs to an extent, for a period of time, but as long as there is a profit to be made, manufacturers, legal and illegal, will find a way to supply the demand.

The solution is to eliminate the demand. We have not committed resources to ending the demand because a lot of money is being made in rehabilitaton. Beyond sporadic, anecdotal discussions, we have no idea why people succumb to taking drugs. That evidence needs to be collected, and mined. Every addict treated, arrested, rehabilitated, saved, should be asked what caused them to begin taking drugs, and their answers entered in a national database. As database grows, and is mined, we could get a picture of what we, as a society, are doing wrong. What have we added to or subtracted from our culture that makes people want to escape from it? What can/must we change about our culture to make people want to stay a part of it, and participate in it? What tools can we provided to allow people to productively deal with things rather than try to escape them?

Should we find out what caused addicts to turn to drugs, and manage to fix those things in our culture, what else might we find that we've "fixed"? Turning to drugs may just be the extreme end of a continum of symptoms that manifest themselves in our current culture. There's a chance we could fix road rage, mass shootings, suicide, bullying (and the susceptibility to bullying), and divisiveness.