The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) states in its1916 report that some 47,000 died of accidental overdoses in 2014. Of that number over 18,000 involved prescription pain killers. And over 10,000 were due to heroin use.
And the report details how these numbers are increasing.
They are huge numbers, difficult for one to wrap their head around. They're so large as to be abstract to those not involved with addiction.
But they're not abstract to those who lose a loved one to a drug overdose. One minute they're with us; the next they're gone. The family members and friends get to feel the results of their loved ones. And untimely passing.
Sometimes a family member discovers the victim. But more often they learn of their loss when a police officer knocks on the door. And since many of these victims are young the rest of the family -usuallly the parents - get to live with pain the rest of their own lives.
For over 50 years I've witnessed our society collectively wonder what to do about drugs. For a long time it was let's lock them up. Then it was let’s have a war on drugs, one they've lost since the beginning. Treatment and 12-step programs have saved some addicts. Yet the epidemic grows.
I think the Europeans may be onto to something in their approach to addiction. For example Zurich, Switzerland got tired of locking up addicts. Of overdoses. Of the spread of AIDS. Of panhandlers in the streets.
They believe in harm reduction and it's working so well that it's spreading to other countries. Click here to read more about their approach to addiction. And the positive results it’s created.