…deaths from drug overdoses have been rising and have reached crisis levels in our country. A newly-released report by the Drug Policy Alliance documents the extent of the problem: drug overdose is now the second-leading cause of accidental death in America, surpassing firearms-related deaths. And it's not just young people who are dying of overdoses: overdose is the number-one injury-related killer among adults aged 35-54.
This is true not only with illicit drugs but also with the misuse, overuse and abuse of prescription drugs.
But efforts to implement … solutions are hamstrung by a drug-war mentality in which there are "good" drugs and "bad" drugs and, by extension, good drug users and bad drug users, the latter seen as somehow deserving of death when they overdose. No one deserves to die by overdose. Everyone deserves a second chance at life, and to be treated compassionately … We need to accept the reality that people will always use drugs, whether legal or illegal, prescribed or sold on the street, mood or performance enhancers, pain killers or stress reducers or sleep-enablers. We are a nation of drug users. We must learn how to reduce the harms associated with our drug use, including reducing the unconscionable and unnecessary number of deaths from overdose.
We must address this problem in new ways. Not just law enforcement, although that is critical, but with well thought out plans and programs. We must use every piece of information that we can access to tackle this crisis. Education, primary prevention before folks use, secondary prevention to prevent relapse and reuse, making a wide variety of treatment available because there is no a one size fits all solution. We must work together, because this is not their problem, it is not my problem, it is our problem. People shouldn't feel as if their toes are getting stepped on or they are being upstaged by someone "out of the box" before they are. There is plenty of work to go around and we all have to work together to get this work done.