America’s Deadly Drug Crisis Demands Moral Courage

April 7, 2016 8:40 pm Last Updated: April 7, 2016 8:40 pm

There are staggering statistics of America’s drug abuse crisis that can appear sterile but the reality is human brokenness, family heartbreak, and shattered communities.

Opiods alone are killing nearly as many Americans as guns or auto accidents, an estimated 28,647 a year, or 78 people a day.

The drug crisis is fueled not only by dope pushers but also by doctors too easily prescribing painkillers and by the public ignorance regarding abuse, addiction, and deadly consequences.

America’s drug abuse scourge is inflicting unimaginable heartbreak on communities, families, and individuals.

Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies are reaping billions of dollars in profit as many abuse the system with activities including doctor shopping for multiple prescriptions.

America’s response must be ignited by moral courage, the critical principle of effective leadership, so that the scourge of the drug abuse crisis is remedied.

Recent Deaths: A Partial List

These are only a few of the tragic incidents memorializing the human suffering associated with our drug abuse crisis:

Grand Prairie, TX: A heart-wrenching tragedy was in a published April 1 report and involved a mother, high on heroin, admitting to beating her 4-year-old daughter to death. The child, Leiliana Wright, died of blunt force trauma to the head and abdomen. Police say the mother admitted to shooting heroin and then repeatedly hit the child with a belt and bamboo stick after the girl drank her 18-month-old brothers’ juice.

Sacramento, CA: A March 31 report documented the death of an El Dorado Hills teen, who was the 29th recent case of overdose deaths related to fentanyl in the county. “We get a lot of overdose deaths every day, so you can’t automatically assume they’re related to fentanyl and hydrocodone pills,” said El Dorado County Office spokesperson Lt. Jim Beyers. “But we were advised … that it was confirmed fentanyl.”

Cheatham, TN: On March 26, a 17-year-old high school student died and local law enforcement authorities stated, “We believe he drank a mixture of liquid morphine and Gatorade.”

Milwaukee, WI: A March 16 report noted that officials with the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office finalized more than 250 drug-related deaths in the county in 2015. Perhaps the most startling fact of the report is that fentanyl deaths increased by 500 percent. Sara Schreiber, the forensic toxicology director emphasized the potency of fentanyl as “something that is prescribed for chronic pain. It’s often given to cancer patients or patients suffering from a great deal of pain for a long period of time.”

Covington, LA: On March 13, 17-year-old Alexander James Shelly was found dead. Apparently, he and a friend were smoking synthetic marijuana when they both blacked out. When the friend woke up, investigators say, he found Shelly face-down in a flooded ditch.

Opiod Addiction: 2016 Facts and Figures

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), America is experiencing an epidemic of drug abuse overdose deaths.

The CDC notes that since 2000, the “rate of deaths from drug overdoses has increased 137 percent, including a 200 percent increase in the rate of overdose deaths involving opiods.”

Since opiod abuse in on the rise, let us take a moment to address the crisis associated with this class of drugs.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), “opiods are a class of drugs that include the illicit drug heroin as well as the licit prescription pain relievers oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl, and others.”

ASAM also notes the following in a 2016 facts and figures document:

  • Of the 21.5 million Americans 12 or older that had a substance use disorder in 2014, (2015 statistics are still being compiled) 1.9 million had a substance use disorder involving prescription pain relievers and 586,000 had a substance use disorder involving heroin.
  • It is estimated that 23 percent of individuals who use heroin develop opioid addiction.
  • Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with 47,055 lethal drug overdoses in 2014. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 18,893 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 10,574 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2014.
  • In 2014, 467,000 adolescents were current nonmedical users of pain reliever, with 168,000 having an addiction to prescription pain relievers.
  • In 2014, an estimated 28,000 adolescents had used heroin in the past year, and an estimated 16,000 were current heroin users. Additionally, an estimated 18,000 adolescents had a heroin use disorder in 2014.

Empowering America’s Youth to Turn the Tide

Although there are many approaches to our drug abuse crisis, let us spotlight the importance of empowering our youth as critical advocates to remedy the crisis.

In my signature presentation titled, “Be a Person of Character: Change the World,” which I have been privileged to present to thousands of middle school, high school, and college students, I honestly address the brokenness in society that has been compounded by the drug abuse crisis.

It is my firm conviction that honestly assessing this issue by showing the tragic consequences, and empowering our youth with the encouragement they need, will help defeat this crisis and change the course of the nation.

Final Reflections

America’s drug abuse scourge is inflicting unimaginable heartbreak on communities, families, and individuals.

We will be on the path to reawakening the nation when we respond from many perspectives, but include speaking heart-to-heart with our youth, especially through America’s schools.

America’s youth deserve the example, encouragement, and tools needed to use their energy to terminate our deadly drug abuse crisis.

Vincent J. Bove
Vincent J. Bove

Vincent J. Bove, CPP, is a national speaker and author on issues critical to America. Bove is a recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for combating crime and violence and is a former confidant of the New York Yankees. His newest book is “Listen To Their Cries.” For more information, see www.vincentbove.com