There are so many things we worry about when we become parents. From our babies meeting milestones to broken arms on the playground, the concerns never really go away. One thing I do know for sure is that as our kids get older, the worries get bigger. More intense. Scarier. For me, one of the things that I know will dominate my fears when my kids hit their teens is drugs; the availability, the consequences and the very real and very scary chance of addiction.
Drugs have always been around, but never more so than now. When I was growing up (insert croaky, old lady voice here), marijuana was pretty much where it was at. Bongs and joints were commonplace at most parties, but anything harder was pretty rare. Then there was Ecstasy, and a few vodka, lemon and limes at a nightclub were replaced by a few pills at a rave. And now, drugs like Ice are EVERYWHERE. Easily accessible and relatively cheap; a quick and easy way for kids to escape the pain or boredom of their everyday lives.
Right now, the most powerful country in the free world (the U.S) is in the grips of an opioid epidemic that is seeing people – young and old – overdosing and dying at a frightening rate as a result of prescription medication. One of these drugs is Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is approximately 80 times stronger than Morphine and is often used as an anaesthetic and in pain management both surgically and post-operatively. It is 50 times more potent than medical grade heroin and is available in many forms – from patches to pills to sprays and has a long list of nasty side effects.
But it’s not just the U.S – this is happening in our own backyard. According to a new study conducted by the University of NSW’s National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, prescription opioids are responsible for more deaths in our country than heroin. Furthermore, the prescription of drugs such as OxyContin, Fentanyl and Tramadol have increased FOUR TIMES from 1990 to 2014. Even scarier? The accidental death rate as a result of the use of opioids has DOUBLED among people in the 35-44 age bracket since 2007 – just a decade ago – and these drugs are responsible for 70% more deaths than heroin.
And it’s not coming from dodgy looking dudes hanging in dark alleyways or hyped-up kids dancing to trance music. It’s coming out of doctor’s offices and hospitals, given by the hands of the people who are meant to be caring for our health. And people are dropping like flies after getting hooked.
The pictures below were taken in the state of Ohio, which has been given the awful title of the ‘overdose capital of America.’ It’s a place where police officers are given a medication called Narcan in syringe form at the beginning of their shifts to insert into the nostrils of people who have overdosed to counteract the effects of the opioid. The couple had taken a hit of Fentanyl and were found slumped over in their car. The woman was able to regain consciousness after being administered Narcan but her partner, 40, was transported to hospital after he failed to wake. These images are confronting and scary but as you can see they are very real.
I’m no expert, but I’d take a stab that the problem lies within a system that fails to really treat people’s medical problems and instead, feeds the beast that is the pharmaceutical industry. The Guardian’s Chris McGreal summed it up best when he said, “Opioid pills are far cheaper and easier than providing other forms of treatment for pain, like physical therapy and psychiatry.” It’s big business and one that is ruining lives at a shockingly fast rate. People are dying in a system that is not only letting them down, but feeding their addictions.
This needs to change – and fast. Too many people are dying and suffering through the hell of addiction and the scariest part is, this could happen to any one of us.
If this topic interests you, give this doco below a go. It’s incredible and definitely worth a watch.