Deaths due to drug overdose have been on the rise for more than 25 years.
While in the year 2000 less than 20,000 U.S. residents were reported to have died from an overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number skyrocketed to more than 54,000 by 2015. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the largest and most worrisome increase has taken place over the last few years.
In 2019, approximately 71,000 deaths due to overdose were reported. In 2020, the first year of the pandemic, the U.S. eclipsed 90,000. A year later, in 2021, more than 105,000 overdose deaths occurred. While initial numbers show that 2022 may have seen a decline, the final tally is all but assured to be much higher than anything previously experienced prior to the arrival of COVID-19.
The drug overdose crisis seems to run parallel to the mental health struggles commonly seen in America today. People are less satisfied and more anxious about their lives, and are seeking ways of escape. Drug use and related deaths were already trending in the wrong direction, just as rates of depression and suicidal thoughts were prior to the pandemic, but now it all seems to have come to a head.
In Cheshire, the Town is looking for ways to help. Having just received funds from a national settlement reached with manufacturers and distributors of opioids, one of the driving factors in the rise of addiction and overdoses, Cheshire officials are seeking to understand just how serious the issue is locally and what residents would like to see done. The Town is conducting a survey and asking all to participate in it.
This is an important step for Cheshire, as there can be little doubt that the town is not immune to the crisis sweeping the country. It would be easy to assume that a quiet, affluent community such as Cheshire would have little problem with illicit drug use, but that fallacy has been proven wrong in other communities all across the U.S. time and again. Opioid addiction doesn’t care about any external factors. It can invade any home, impact any family.
The number of deaths related to drug overdose is frightening, but it’s only one part of the story. For every death there are several others who are addicted, struggling to unchain themselves from the bonds of drug use. These individuals commonly see their lives impacted in all sorts of negative ways, from severe health problems to failing relationships to loss of employment.
Those who abuse drugs are also more likely to engage in illegal behavior as, according to AddictionHelp.com, 50% of all crimes are committed by individuals addicted to drugs or alcohol.
So, while more than 100,000 people a year may die due to drug overdose, countless others are slowly watching their lives fall apart because of addiction. Even if they are fortunate enough to survive their dependency, the damage done may ultimately be irreversible.
Drug use can be prevented. Addiction can be treated. Those who are battling to avoid becoming yet another terrible statistic can get help. But it takes admitting that there’s a problem and reaching out in order to begin changing one’s life.
The survey being conducted now by the Town of Cheshire, through the University of New Hampshire, promises to keep responses anonymous. It reportedly takes 10 minutes to complete. It could be done at night, on a lunch break, or during a few free moments over the weekend. For 10 minutes of time, the Town can get a better sense of what’s happening within its own borders and how to tackle the issue in the near and long term.
The drug crisis in the U.S. is one that impacts us all, whether directly or indirectly. As such, we all need to have a hand in fighting it. If we do, perhaps we’ll begin to see the number of deaths decline in the same dramatic way they inclined over the past few years.