Alcoholism Kills Over Time; Opioids Kill Overnight
I just got a call from my son Dan to tell me his girlfriend’s cousin died yesterday of an opioid overdose. The young man who died was just 24 years old. This breaks my heart. I can only imagine the pain and suffering his family is experiencing right now.
And while I can’t imagine the pain, I have seen it up-close before. Dan’s best friend in the world died the same way four years ago. Taking refuge under the cover of his family’s boat on the nearby lake, Connor died alone, having not even yet reached his sixteenth birthday.
Those of in addiction know its severity – the dangers of driving intoxicated, the extraordinarily bad and harmful behavior we are capable of displaying when we’re high, the broken families our addiction can foster, and on and on. Alcoholism can kill you suddenly in an accident, to be sure, but more often it kills us in a slow grind over time as our bodies and minds suffer a deadly toll from our abuse. There is an estimated 15 million alcoholics in this country, with an estimated 88,000 Americans dying each year from alcohol-related causes.
Still, it’s not like opioids, for which a fatal amount can kill you right now. In 2018 alone, 67,000 died from fatal drug overdoses, of which 70 percent were from opioids alone. The number of drug overdose deaths decreased by 4% from 2017 to 2018, but the number of drug overdose deaths was still four times higher in 2018 than in 1999. (Source: CDC, National Center for Health Statistics; 2020. Available at http://wonder.cdc.gov)
The two I mentioned who died were both young men, but just like with alcohol, this disease doesn’t discriminate, killing young and old, men and women, rich and poor alike.
It’s time for the U.S. to step up its efforts further to fight more fiercely than ever the deadly epidemic of addiction and alcoholism. We just cannot let these deaths and ruined lives continue to happen over and over and over again to America’s greatest resource, our people.