Saturday, May 9, 2020

GateHouse: This country’s other growing and deadly epidemic

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
May 8, 2020
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been engrossed in a battle to control an epidemic in this country that in 2018 alone took 67,367 lives. The epidemic is not a new strain of influenza, Ebola or some other deadly infectious disease. The epidemic is drug abuse resulting in overdose deaths.
According to the CDC, drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Nearly 70% of the 67,367 deaths in 2018 involved an opioid. Opioid addiction is the driving force behind the epidemic.
Ironically, the birth of the opioid epidemic can be traced to an effort to help people fight chronic pain. OxyContin, a time-release pain reliever, was approved by the government in 1995 and launched for use in the U.S. in 1996. FDA approval was granted to Purdue Pharma, a family-owned business, because of the drug’s 12-hour time-release component. At the time those suffering from chronic pain only had temporary relief every four hours. Within a couple of years, OxyContin exploded onto the illicit drug scene. The time-release aspect of OxyContin was easily defeated by chewing or crushing the tablet - causing a powerful high. Purdue had the opportunity to stop the supply of OxyContin to offices and clinics across the country that were serving as nothing more than pill mills generating enormous profit and providing very little medical care.
Purdue Pharma is a privately held company owned by the Sackler family. Late last year, the family agreed to pay $3 billion over the next seven years to victims’ families, reported the New York Times.
Some of the states with the highest rates of death due to drug overdose are West Virginia (51.5 per 100,000), Pennsylvania (36.1 per 100,000) and Ohio (35.9 per 100,000). The magnitude of the opioid epidemic comes into focus when one compares the overdose deaths with the current COVID-19 death rate in those states, West Virginia (2.7 per 100,000), Pennsylvania (22.6 per 100,000) and Ohio (8.9 per 100,000).
The CDC acknowledges that a pandemic in the midst of an epidemic can be catastrophic. Opioid-related deaths are on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brittany Shultz, a substance abuse specialist with the York County Opioid Collaborative in central Pennsylvania explained to WHP-TV in Harrisburg how “a combination of fears and increased isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the rise in overdose deaths.”
Restrictions on movement may lead those with a substance abuse disorder to opt to purchase drugs from less trusted sources, raising the risk of overdosing on drugs that may be stronger than anticipated or tainted.
Narcan, an opioid overdose antidote, has been hailed as a miracle drug. The drug administered by medical staff, police officers and even fellow drug users have pulled people out of a deadly overdose by administering an easy-to-use antidote.
Even in spite of readily available Narcan, overdoses continue to rise. Some suggest that drug users locked down in their homes during the pandemic don’t have friends to call for help or to administer an antidote.
The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated the lives of those in recovery. The loss of employment and social relationships has caused considerable mental health hardship to those already vulnerable to risky behavior.
While this country wages war and dedicates enormous attention and resources to this mysterious and deadly virus, and rightfully so, this country cannot afford to ignore a killer that has been with us for years and will continue to plague America for years to come.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino.
To visit the column CLICK HERE

No comments:

Post a Comment