We already know how destructive the opioid crisis is. But now, two more studies remind us just how bad it has become.
More Bad News
Data collected by the federal government predicts that an estimated 30,000 people will die this year of opioid overdoses. That is ninety people every day, if the accelerating trends hold. One study has found that so many people have died in opioid-related deaths that there has been an overall decrease in the average American life expectancy. This is unprecedented.
However, two more recent studies paint an even bleaker picture.
First, the Center for Disease Control released data that suggests that average life expectancy is dropping for the third year in a row. One of the main causes of this drop is the opioid crisis. Another study confirmed those findings. A group of researchers looking at the 15-year period from 2001-2016 discovered that the percentage of all deaths in the US increased from 0.4% to 1.5%, a 292% increase. The most shocking revelation, picked up by major outlets, is that among adults aged 24-36 years, 20% of deaths in 2016 involved opioids. There is no indication at this time that the percentage will stop increasing.
Realism and Hope
Studies like this are going to continue to come out, and we should read and understand all of them. Realism in the opioid crisis is nonnegotiable. We must know how bad it is, we must know what kind of people are most vulnerable, and we must face facts.
However, we must not allow these disturbing data to make us defeatist or pessimistic. There is hope.
There can be success in obtaining freedom from addiction for many addicts. The government has also seen some success reducing the death toll by partnering locally with communities and faith-based organizations. One area of hope is the sacred sector. Addicts in faith-focused programs like 12-step programs lower their risk of relapse. Because Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) highly increase vulnerability to addiction, the sacred can be preventative. Young adults involved in religion are less likely to become of addicted to drugs. Spiritual resources, integral to recovery, are extended to addicts at Native American, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian rehabilitation centers.
Let us learn from these studies and work together to treat this crisis. We must tackle the opioid epidemic realistically, but also with hope.