I was driving the other day when a Prince song came on the radio. I felt so sad listening to him, his death was so unnecessary. Then it struck me, that despite a star of his magnitude dying of an opiate overdose, still, nothing has changed.
His death wasn’t the turning point.
50,000 people die every year from opiate overdoses. We are in the middle of a crisis and we have still no adequate response.
Andrew Sullivan wrote this piece on the Opiate epidemic, that it is our generation’s AIDS crisis. He is right and our response should be of the same magnitude.
In the 1980’s no one cared about AIDS. It only affected gay men, and in many people’s eyes they pretty much deserved what they got, with their devious immoral behavior. Communities were just devastated, the number of deaths increasing monthly. But no one did anything. Until a small group of outraged, devastated and determined people got together and started advocating. Motivated by anger, desperation and the inability to just stand by and watch this happen to their community, they started making a nuciense of themselves. They got in people’s faces and they kept demanding help until they got it.
They kept going until momentum started to build. Sure, it took ‘straight’ people dying of HIV for people to realize that this was a potential threat to everyone, to really get things going. But the response to the AIDS crisis really demonstrated what a small determined bunch of advocates can really do. Now AIDS research, prevention and treatment is extremely well-funded and understood. And most importantly the unnecessary deaths have stopped.
Why don’t we care enough about the opioid crisis? Across the country there are groups of angry and determined people who are demanding a response to this epidemic but we still don’t have the momentum and visibility required to really make a difference.
Chris Christie has just been appointed to the White House to tackle this crisis. I hope he succeeds, but it requires an effort on all fronts. More treatment, more education but most of all more regulations on the pharmaceutical companies who are pumping opiate based drugs into (particularly) rural communities. We need to be more angry about this. Because this is the main point, why aren’t the pharmaceutical companies being held accountable?*
I hear about the opiate crisis a lot on the news but what I don’t hear is talk of a plan. ‘We need to do something.’ Yeah, no s**t.
And still the deaths go on. It’s more like Prince and the (complete lack of a drug) Revolution.