The Beacon

September marks National Drug Addiction Awareness

Tonya Creasy, Opinion Writer

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National Drug Addiction Awareness month is held to bring awareness to the disease of addiction. It is recognized during the month of September and provides knowledge to those either suffering from addiction currently, or those in a rehabilitation program trying to maintain sobriety.

One of the main focuses of the month is the use of synthetic opioids and other drugs such as heroin, alcohol and fentanyl. Most people know at least one person that suffers from addiction. That person may be a member of the family, a close friend or even a celebrity.

Drug addiction is a growing crisis. According to CNN Health, heroin and drug overdoses contributes to 49,068 deaths a year, and it still continues to grow. According to Lauren Rossen, “The most striking patterns at the national level are the recent increases in the numbers of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids.”

Between 2002 and 2017, overdose deaths became 22 times greater, reaching nearly 30,000 overdoses related to opioids.

The type of drugs used at the time of overdose varies state to state. For example, in Oregon, Nevada and Washington the main cause of death is methamphetamine. On the east coast, the leading cause is heroin and opioids.

The current debate is whether small time drug offenders should be sent into prison or be placed in a rehabilitation center. The addiction crisis ranges across the socioeconomic spectrum. Fortunately, law enforcement is beginning to treat it as a public health crisis.

Since then, there have been changes made and they have proven to be successful. For example, small level drug users may not have to serve a mandatory prison sentence. Instead many courts and officials see that it is a health crisis and offer the option for treatment.

There are also new protocols for physicians as well. Prescription opiates are used as a last resort for doctors. Incarceration is expensive to maintain and reducing the prison population can be beneficial financially as well.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro has focused on adding regulations for doctors who are prescribing opioids and have focused on rehabilitation for non-violent drug users. The solution could be very successful with Narcotics Anonymous and other programs that help the addict realize that they have a problem.

Without believing they have a problem, it is most likely it will have no effects. These programs teach the addicted person new ways to cope with addiction. Governor Tom Wolf recently requested $34 million to expand drug treatment in the face of this crisis.

Around 2,500 people in Pennsylvania died due to drug overdose in 2014, which is a 91 percent increase since 2004.

Unfortunately, the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs has the smallest budget of any department in state government. The yearly budget is less than 2 million. This makes it difficult for most users to receive treatment. There have been techniques used that are proven to help many overcome their addictions.

The increase in drug overdoses is leading to more deaths across the United States. Although there are many factors that contribute to this epidemic, there are a few ways to address this problem.

The funding is so low that more than half of the people that are struggling with addiction are unable to receive treatment. With increased funding, many of those who are in poverty have a chance to overcome their addiction.

Another solution would be to offer recovery programs in prisons to help low-level drug offenders. Those programs can be used to help those trying to recover, maintain sobriety so they don’t fall back into using when they get released.

If you know someone that is suffering from an addiction, reach out. There are ways to get help. Remember, recovery is possible.

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September marks National Drug Addiction Awareness