Inside View

How to Quell the Beast of Addiction

Drug deaths now outnumber U.S. traffic fatalities
Calamity Drug deaths now outnumber U.S. traffic fatalities. Drug addiction has more than doubled in the last 15 years. It demands effective solutions.

Addiction is a nightmare, a dark creature with an unnatural wrongness to its form—cagey, tenacious and terrible. A ravenous bundle of blackness with too-smooth skin and blade-sharp teeth, it rips apart people and families and tears at society’s fragile weave.

And, it is everywhere.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 4.3 million Americans a month abuse prescription painkillers. The number of people dying from overdoses of prescription opioids has increased by 200 percent over the last 15 years.

Hundreds of millions of lives are affected, with many ended before their time. According to the 2014 United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime World Drug Report, illicit drug users worldwide number between 162 and 324 million—3.5 percent to 7 percent of all people ages 15 to 64. America leads the world in drug deaths, with a drug-related mortality rate of 142 persons per million—three times the global rate. That translates to 40,000 deaths every year, outnumbering U.S. traffic fatalities. In the first decade of the 21st century, drug deaths more than doubled among teens and young adults and more than tripled among those 50 to 69.

Behind these statistics are countless human tragedies—jobs lost, savings squandered, injuries inflicted, families destroyed.

It’s time to turn and face the nightmare, this awful beast addiction. And not just to beat it back. It is the beast’s hunger we must quell, addressing abuse on the demand side with drug education and effective rehabilitation leading to meaningful and lasting release from the cruel grip of addiction.