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Drug Overdose Deaths Have Tripled Over Past Three Decades

Prescription Drug Abuse and Rise of Heroin Play a Part in Tragedies

Saddening news emerges according to the recent CDC report, overdose deaths involving prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999, and so have sales of these prescription drugs. From 1999 to 2014, more than 165,000 people have died in the U.S. from overdoses related to prescription opioids.

Opioid prescribing continues to fuel the epidemic. Today, at least half of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid. In 2014, more than 14,000 people died from overdoses involving prescription opioids alone.

While heroin use has certainly skyrocketed, there is also a great danger in the abuse of prescription drugs. And, oftentimes, we hear about individuals who became addicted to a prescription after a surgery or injury, then turned to using heroin. It’s a frequent problem that touches people from all walks of life—of every age, every socio-economic status, and in both cities and suburbs.”

According to a representative from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the stigma attached to drug addiction has stalled the development and investment in better treatment options. Federal spending on drug addiction research was $320 million for fiscal year 2013—about the same as in 2002, adjusted for inflation, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The Association for Addiction Professionals tells us that, sadly, only about 5 to 10 percent of Americans addicted to prescription drugs or heroin actually receive behavioral health treatment. This is a tragic fact, as there are faith-based treatment options that do yield great results, and real life change can happen, if only a person who needs help seeks it.

IN another CDC report, as heroin use has increased, so have heroin-related overdose deaths:

  • Heroin-related overdose deaths have more than tripled since 2010.
  • From 2013 to 2014, heroin overdose death rates increased by 26%, with more than 10,500 people dying in 2014.

These facts are a wake-up call for parents. When prescription drugs are readily accessible in the home or at grandpa’s or a friend’s house, it can be an open door for danger.

Pain medication abuse is becoming more and more prevalent. Parents must always be watchful and know where the temptations for experimentation lie in their home. It used to be kids started with cigarettes, then marijuana, then harder drugs. Now they find pain meds on a dresser or in a medicine cabinet and the addiction cycle is off and running. So clean out the medicine cabinet after that wisdom tooth extraction, make sure the prescription for that back injury is no longer around. Grandparents, too, must be mindful of the pain medications that are within reach for their teenaged and young adult grandchildren. And we cannot shy away from confronting our kids when they may be struggling with drug addiction. We will not push them to an overdose, but instead we will save them from one.

Drug abuse may seem overwhelming for those who have a friend or loved one struggling with an addition, but help is available. The most effective help for long-term recovery is a BioPsychoSpiritual approach using biblically-based, Christ-centered principles combined with sound medical and psychological science, so those being treated do not return to the addiction lifestyle.

karl-benzio-1Dr. Karl Benzio MD, Christian Psychiatrist, writer, speaker, media guest expert, social issue activist, and the founder and clinical director of Lighthouse Network. Benzio brings scientific expertise and biblical principles together to examine common daily struggles and help people successfully navigate life’s storms. His experiences include teaching pastors, ministry leaders and students about counseling, leadership, parenting, marriage, and conflict resolution skills in traumatized areas like Uganda, Kenya and post-Hussein Iraq. He is currently a member of Focus on the Family’s Physicians Resource Council, the Pennsylvania Director of the American Academy of Medical Ethics, and serves on many other social policy task forces. His specialties include adolescents, addictions, decision-making and infusing spirituality into treatment. Benzio shares psycho-spiritual insights via his Stepping Stones daily devotional, on his one-minute daily radio feature “Life Change with Dr. Karl,” on 425 Christian radio stations and on iDisciple.org.

Email: KBenzio@LighthouseNetwork.org

Twitter: @drkarlb