The Opioid Epidemic is out of Control

You’re More Likely To Die From An Opioid Overdose Than A Car Accident

Your odds of dying from an accidental overdose is 1 in 96.

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For the first time ever, the odds of dying in a car accident are smaller than the chances of overdosing on opioids. The National Safety Council analyzed fatality statistics from 2017 and found that lifetime odds of dying from opioid overdose were greater than death from car accidents, pedestrian accidents, falls, drowning and fires. Sadly, the common misconception for many people is that the opioid crisis won't affect them. However, a closer look at the numbers reveals that the overdose rates are increasing across the US and it may only be a matter of time before someone you know is another victim.

Looking at the Numbers

According to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, the number of children and teens admitted to hospitals for opioid overdose has nearly doubled since 2004. The study looked at children and teens between the ages of 1-17 who were admitted to intensive care units for opioid-related diagnosis from 2004-2015. Researchers identified 3,647 patients across the country who were admitted for opioid-related incidents. Sadly, almost half of these patients end up in the intensive care unit.

According to the CDC, there were 70,237 overdose deaths that occurred in the US in 2017 - this is 9.6% rise from 2016. Opioid overdoses accounted for almost 70% of these deaths. Statistically significant states with synthetic opioid overdoses include Arizona (increased by 122.2%, North Carolina (increased by 112.9% and Oregon (saw a 90.9% increase). Illegally manufactured fentanyl was a major contributing factor to the number of opioid overdoses in 2017 the largest rate of increase was among 25-44 year-old men.

How Are Lawmakers Fighting This Epidemic?

It can be argued that lawmakers are not doing enough to combat the opioid epidemic. A report by the Washington Post claims Congress has not caught up with the major opioid problem. The report claims in order for this epidemic to be stopped something similar to national effort seen during the AIDS epidemic needs to happen. There needs to be more money granted to opioid addiction prevention campaigns, more funding response, more treatment centers and development of non-addictive painkillers.

The most significant legislation that has come out of Congress seems to be the STOP act of 2018. This bill is aimed at stopping the flow of fentanyl abroad - primarily from China ( a large manufacturer of synthetic fentanyl). It authorizes U.S border control to process shipments and requires that postal shippers include details about the parcel and include names addresses of recipients. Many people across the country still think Congress isn't doing enough to combat this epidemic and new efforts are being implemented by everyday citizens to fight this problem in their own backyard.

The CDC started a program called OPIS (Overdose Prevention in States) that works with 45 states across the US to inform and raise awareness about the opioid epidemic. This program works with communities to enhance prescription drug monitoring programs, share statistics with each other, report non-fatal and fatal overdoses more quickly. The sharing of information between local states and surrounding communities allows people to rapidly respond with targeted resources and quickly identify opioid "hot spots." These prescription drug campaigns have had success in decreasing opioid prescriptions and fatalities.

Take Action Into Your Own Hands

Knowing the facts is the first step to addressing this epidemic. Too many young people are dying due to the use of these opioids and prescription painkillers. It's important to work together as a community or with your school to address the crisis and monitor people around you who might be struggling with this addiction. If you know someone struggling with opioid addiction, don't wait for it to be too late -- get them the help they need right away.

Resources For Those Struggling With Addiction:

National Helpline SAMHSA

Opiate Addiction Hotline

Opioid Prevention Resources

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An Open Letter To The Parent That Chose Drugs Over Me

You should know this.
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There used to be a time when you made me feel loved and wanted.

I couldn't wait to come home after school knowing that you'd be waiting for me along with all of my favorite snacks, ready to give me a big hug and ask me how my day went. I used to sit in your lap while you helped me read my chapter books. You used to show up to things.

You used to get to know my friends. You used to encourage me. But you're not that person anymore. I watched as your addiction consumed you and turned you into a monster. Your loving words turned into hateful actions. I watched as you became angry at the world until your substances were the only thing that mattered anymore. Nothing was good enough for you, and nothing could save you... not even me.

SEE ALSO: They're Not Junkies, You're Just Uneducated

It took me a long time to realize what was even going on. I was old enough to know that drugs were bad, but still young enough that I had no idea what they looked like or how a person may act while taking them. I didn't know that when you locked yourself in your room with strangers you were getting high, or that it wasn't normal for people to sleep for twenty hours at a time.

I used to think that maybe if I had asked other adults more questions I would have figured it out sooner and you could have gotten help. I used to think that if maybe my sister and I didn't fight as much, or if I didn't complain every time you told me to do something, that maybe you wouldn't have been so stressed out all the time. But the truth is, it wasn't my fault. It wasn't my sister's fault.

This was all on you.

I didn't ask for a parent that was forced to enroll in various rehab programs, but that's what I got. I didn't ask for the letters you sent while you were in and out of jail, but I still read them all. I didn't want to explain to my friends' parents why your name was always in the paper, but I did it regardless.

All I ever actually wanted was for you to pick me for once in your life, but you couldn't do that.

When the going got tough, you just cowered away, too scared to confront your own demons. You had everyone else to blame, but you never took a second to think about what you were doing to us, no matter how much I begged and pleaded.

You ripped our family apart. You fucked me up.

What is a child to do when the one person in the whole world that is supposed to teach them love and affection hits them, tells them they're worthless, and leaves them to fend for themselves?

SEE ALSO: To The Children Growing Up Around Addiction

I promised myself several years ago that I would never become you. I would never let any kind of substance consume my life. I wouldn't lie, steal, and manipulate to get my way. I wouldn't become a “parent" to my children only when it's convenient for me. I would make something of myself.

It makes my blood boil to see you take credit for how I turned out. “I'm so proud of my baby. Raising you is the greatest thing I've ever done." Complete bullshit. You were never around to raise me. Any ounce of success I've tasted hasn't come from you or your guidance. If anything, you've only been a living demonstration of everything I shouldn't be.

I got to where I am today with absolutely no help from you. You don't get to come into my life now that I'm an adult and take all the credit. You don't get to try to dictate what I can and can't do as if you have some kind of authority on my decisions. You had your chance to raise me and be a part of my life, but you blew it. I don't owe you a single thing.


Cover Image Credit: Jordi Bernabeu

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Denver's Decision To Decriminalize Magic Mushrooms Offers New Hope For Those Struggling With Mental Illness

If we want to really make progress in mental health treatment, we might have to start considering solutions that are a little bit unorthodox.

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Admittedly, magic mushrooms are not the first drug that comes to mind when you think of Denver, Colorado. However, this week the residents of Denver will vote on whether to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms as part of a movement nicknamed "Decriminalize Denver." The movement is the nation's first public referendum on hallucinogenic mushrooms. Initiative 301 aims to ratify the directive that enforcing laws for personal use or possession of psilocybin mushrooms "shall be the lowest law enforcement priority in the City and County of Denver."

While the motives behind decriminalization are undeniably varied, one major reason to support the legalization of magic mushrooms is the fact that they offer a lot of potential in long-term treatment of mental illness and addiction. According to a study led by Jeremy Daniel and Margaret Haberman at the South Dakota State University College of Pharmacy in 2017, psilocybin mushrooms have high affinity for several serotonin receptors located in numerous areas of the brain, including the cerebral cortex and thalamus.

Findings like these point to the fact that psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, may be an effective treatment for addiction, depression, chronic pain, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The benefits are so convincing that the FDA has granted "breakthrough therapy" status to study psilocybin for treating depression due to the fact that preliminary evidence shows "the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement over available therapy," meaning magic mushrooms might be closer to their namesake after all, bringing new hope for those who have exhausted other options and found them more harmful than helpful.

Kevin Matthews, the campaign director of "Decriminalize Denver," credits psilocybin mushrooms with "really saving [his] life" following his medical discharge from the United States Military Academy due to his major depression. Matthews says his "life had crumbled beneath [his] feet" and suffered without a solution for years until his friends introduced him to magic mushrooms. Since discovering their potential for treating his depression, he's dedicated his life to bringing others with severe mental illnesses the same opportunity.

A 2015 paper from the University of Alabama went so far as to find that "classic psychedelic use is associated with reduced psychological distress and suicidality in the United States adult population." Findings like these are imperative, especially in a time when suicide rates have risen 30% in the last decade.

If we want to really make progress in mental health treatment, we might have to start considering solutions that are a little bit unorthodox.

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