Ms. Lilly Cazayoux, APGov Correspondent
There is no doubt in my mind that the biggest problem in the country, as well as in Vermont, is the opioid epidemic. No matter where you go, it’s impossible to find any community that has not been affected by scourge of these drugs. Whether it’s an addiction to prescription painkillers, or dangerous street drugs like heroin, we need to dedicate greater resources to fighting them.
Opioid death tolls have been on the rise over the past two decades and began to accelerate rapidly in 2011. Opioid overdose deaths nearly doubled over the last five years, surpassing 42,200 nationwide in 2016. In Vermont the death toll was 100. Opioids don’t care where you come from, nor do they discriminate based on socioeconomic status. Twenty of the deaths in Vermont occurred with people who had no high school diploma, however, an equal number occurred with people who had a college degree. No matter who you are, you are just as susceptible to opioid addiction. It’s time as Vermonters, as Americans, as citizens who care for one another, that we take a stand.
There are two aspects to this problem that must be addressed and fixed; keeping addicts alive, as well as preventing more people from becoming addicted
The big dangers with these drugs, are how easy it is to overdose on them, and the diseases contracted by injecting with unsterile needles. The first thing we must do is preserve the lives at risk, by preventing fatal overdoses. I believe the best solution to that would be to open supervised injection sites. Popular in Europe, supervised injection sites allow addicts to use drugs with sanitary materials, provide treatment consultation, as well as medical help in the case of an overdose emergency. With newer, more potent drugs on the market such as fentanyl, it’s crucial we find a quick way to save these lives before thousands more are lost. These supervised injection sites would provide a chance to preserve lives until users can make the decision to begin the rehabilitation process. The main goal of implementing these sites would be to reduce the immediate health issues that opioid addiction presents, as well as attempting to refer the addicts into treatment.
The other preemptive part of this plan would be targeting doctors that over prescribe highly addictive opioids in unnecessary cases. I believe more stringent rules regulating these prescriptions could prevent many people from becoming addicted to these medicines in the first place, before they turn to the cheaper more dangerous cousin, heroin.
Attacking the epidemic from both sides of the problem could be the solution to saving lives from opioid addictions.
Ed Note: this essay was one of the finalists of Bernie Sanders’ State of the Union Essay Contest.