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The Opioids Crisis: An Epidemic in Your Backyard

The opioid crisis is teaching us that substance abuse is no longer the domain of the “other.” Opioid addiction impacts us all.

One of the most important things the opioid crisis is teaching us is that substance abuse is no longer the domain of the “other.” We can’t dismiss those who suffer from opioid misuse disorder as “different” from ourselves. We can’t blame the victims as easily as we might be tempted to with other types of drugs. Opioid misuse disorder can strike anyone: rich, poor, black, white, city, country, young, or old. This more or less indiscriminate ravaging of families and communities across the socioeconomic spectrum is part of what makes the problem an epidemic. And it’s also what makes this issue so alarming: It can happen to you.

Here’s what we know: 

Overdose and abuse rates used to be higher among men, but when it comes to opioids, there is a trend towards gender convergence, which means women are beginning to die at a rate closer to men.

The number of opioid misuse deaths has been steadily increasing since 1994, and while the government is making efforts and while we are all getting better at knowing the nuances of this epidemic, there isn’t a lot of compelling reasons to think that’s going to change significantly anytime soon.

Overdose death occurs across all levels of education, but one group is starting to die at a higher rate than others: uneducated white Americans.  

While cities have a significant share of opioid misuse deaths, they occur even more frequently in rural areas where there is likely to be less access to addiction resources, higher poverty rates, and a greater concentration of economically vulnerable people.  

The number of overdose deaths related to heroin increased 533% between 2002 and 2016, from an estimated 2,089 in 2002 to 13,219 in 2016. 

About 115 people die every day from opioid abuse disorder.

We must have hope that the tides will change soon: that doctors will continue to try to shut Pandora’s box by prescribing fewer opioids for pain and that new regulations and studies will help us combat the epidemic. But what might be the most compelling reason to take action against this epidemic is that opioid misuse disorder—and subsequent death—could happen to ourselves or our loved ones.