The Ohio Emergency Management Agency recently had to implement the extraordinary measure of using cold storage trailers for overflow because several county morgues were stuffed well beyond capacity. It sounds like a scene ripped straight from a B horror movie, but it is unfortunately all too real, and a sad footnote in our battle against addiction.
The number of overdoses in Stark County has spiked over 20% in the past year alone. Last year, the coroner processed about 500 deaths, over 100 of which were drug-related. Cincinnati experienced a six-day period with 174 overdoses, during which time the Hamilton County coroner’s office experienced a 100-day backlog of testing for police investigations.
Ohio opioid deaths have catapulted 775% over a 13-year period as ever stronger forms of opioids, such as fentanyl and carfentanil, have hit the streets. These lethal variations range from 50 to 10,000 times greater potency than morphine. Yes, you read that right, 10,000 times greater!
Addicts are experimenting with higher and higher doses to the point where they just can’t breathe, and their bodily functions grind to a halt. Pictures of people passed out at stop lights with little ones in the car and gut-wrenching videos detailing family loss have gone viral. Many of us can relate to this on a personal level and some of us fear it could happen to us.
Addiction and its aftermath have become very personal; there’s a rising sense of desperation on both an individual and countrywide level. There are an estimated 27 million addicts in the US, driving, working and taking other risks while impaired. The mere intake of drugs and alcohol is dramatically reducing people’s overall health. This outbreak does not discriminate, and it is affecting 10% of the teen and adult population.
It’s further estimated that between friends and family of addicts, more than half the US population is materially impacted by addiction. It’s no wonder the story hits home; on any given day, any one of us could be on the receiving end of a tragic phone call letting us know a loved one has died.
What do we do? The system is overwhelmed and it often seems as if we’re sticking our finger in a crumbling dyke. We want to do more for the people we care about and others with whom we can empathize because of our connection to the disease, but what?
I strongly believe we need to create something focused specifically on addiction and similar to a domestic Peace Corps or at the very least, state Political Action Committees (PACs) as recommended by Virginia’s McShin Foundation. (see page 52)
If you think that might be an impossible task, consider that Mitt Romney suggested a domestic Peace Corps during his 2012 presidential run. I’ve also heard through the grapevine that First Daughter Ivanka Trump is interested in making the fight against addiction one of her signature projects. Resources can be brought to bear.
Even if my suggestion seems too aggressive and without potential, we need to start somewhere and we need to be proactive. Those struggling with addiction and those who love them should make better use of social media to support the cause. Too many lives are affected to let shame continue to keep us in the shadows.
InRecovery Magazine is expanding its online presence with forums of support and advocacy at InRecovery.com. It’s a good start. They’ll also be setting up a Memorial Wall. We each have to hit up all the regular horsemen of the internet: Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter. It’s up to us to take the message to the masses and to make this message go viral. This can be our million-person march; as we take to the internet, we can even create our own billion-person march to stamp out addiction.
Help and support is within reach for you or a loved one battling addiction. Explore InRecovery’s national addiction treatment center directory now.