Crises often emerge from hopeful thinking, that proves wrong. We see this in Ukraine right now, imagining public safety without police, imagining no inflation with wild spending – and now we see it elsewhere. Imagining young Americans will not die of drug overdoses, we are wrong again – this time with deadly consequences. We are in a full-blown crisis.
Mid-February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that overdose deaths hit another record high last year, predicting that 104,288 people died from a drug overdose in the 12 months ending in September 2021. Nothing like that has happened before.
To grasp the impact of this development, the reality of a full-blown crisis, consider key facts.
This overdose number represents an unprecedented – never happened before – jump of 16 percent in overdosing by American kids in just one year. This amounts to roughly 14,000 more deaths than a year ago, a number that just two decades ago defined all overdose deaths. See, e.g., Fentanyl Deaths Climbing, DEA Washington Continues the Fight; Statement from Dr. Rahul Gupta on Today’s CDC Overdose Death Data.
Worse, leading experts – left, right, and center – see the trend as continuing, unless the American people and political leaders understand the numbers are now devastating all income brackets, geographic areas, urban and rural, boys and girls, the country.
The impact is not defined by minority or majority status, border or interior, or any other cross-cutting demographic. It is defined – everywhere – by ignorance, indifference, and lack of hands-on, caring, committed leadership at all levels of government and in the private sector.
Like parents who imagine their kids will never perish, since their kids are somehow different from the world, parents of those who lie awake to a nightmare. So do their siblings, grandparents, cousins, and friends. The nightmare is preventable, but not without caring and action.
If COVID is a pandemic, this scourge on our nation is a mega-pandemic. This is not a “most will recover” situation – not until we look at the incoming flood of foreign drugs, meth, fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, synthetics, and high potency marijuana. Let’s be real; these are dark forces in life.
Not a single town, city, county, state, or part of this great nation is unaffected today by violent drug trafficking – in one form or another – by drug-related crime, abuse, addiction, overdoses, and the need for stronger confrontations with traffickers, plus real and not fake treatment, real and not “legalization is ok” prevention.
If you do not teach the truth, kids do not find out – often until it is too late. If you do not see the impact of indifference and ignorance on families – you often miss it until it hits yours. If you do not lead at the local, state, and federal levels – you often get the results of poor leadership.
Taken together, many states saw a devastating shift toward loss of life to high-potency, one time-and-dead drugs. Alaska saw overdoses increase by 60 percent, Vermont 59 percent, Kansas 49 percent.
Needed now is some real leadership. What can be done?
Locally, engage in real and honest conversations with kids, at home, in schools, recreation centers, and work. State-level, understand that many of the issues in education, tied to crime and fear, go back to drugs. To ignore such a source and accelerant of childhood pain is cruel.
At the national level, the current administration and Congress need to snap-to, stop advocating narcotics legalization, stop speaking untruth for votes or from non-study, and think. They need to understand the impact of bad and indifferent policies get back to action.
Specifically, we need a cabinet rank drug czar, leadership from the Attorney General, White House, and leadership in Congress. COVID got the attention, but it also – ironically – accelerated the isolation and depression that often drives drug abuse, addiction, and overdosing.
Bottom line: It’s time to get serious – or next year will make us all cringe, reflecting our moral indifference to young Americans, and accelerating overdoses amount to a full-blown crisis.