The Hard Truths about Addiction

THE DATA:

According to the CDC[1], drug overdose deaths continue to increase in the United States. From 1999 to 2017, (18 years) more than 702,000 people have died from a drug overdose.

In 2017, 70,237 drug overdose deaths occurred in America, making it a leading cause of injury-related death. Prescription or illicit opioids were involved in 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017 (67.8% of all drug overdose deaths).

Leading causes of death in US – 2017:

  • Heart disease: 647,457
  • Cancer: 599,108
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 169,936
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 160,201
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 146,383
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 121,404
  • Diabetes: 83,564
  • Influenza and Pneumonia: 55,672
  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis: 50,633
  • Intentional self-harm (suicide): 47,173

The overdose numbers were 70,237, right below diabetes.

The age-adjusted rate of overdose deaths increased significantly by 9.6% from 2016 (19.8 per 100,000) to 2017 (21.7 per 100,000). Opioids—mainly synthetic opioids (other than methadone)—are currently the main driver of drug overdose deaths.

Annual deaths[2] due to drug overdoses now exceed those form motor vehicle deaths, gun violence and even HIV at the height of the 1990s HIV epidemic.

In 2017, the states with the highest rates of death due to drug overdose were West Virginia (57.8 per 100,000), Ohio (46.3 per 100,000), Pennsylvania (44.3 per 100,000), the District of Columbia (44.0 per 100,000), and Kentucky (37.2 per 100,000).1

States with statistically significant increases in drug overdose death rates from 2016 to 2017 included Alabama, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

In 2016, the overdose rate reported by states to the CDC[3] was 63,363. That translated to 174 people dying every day.

 

In 2017, the daily death toll jumped to 192 people per day.

 

To give you an idea about the magnitude of this number:

Vietnam War[4] – 1954-1975 (21 years) 58,200 plus US soldiers died during this time period.

World War II[5] – 1939-1945 (6 years) 407,300 plus US soldiers died.

World War I[6] – 1914-1918 (4 years) 53,402 plus US soldiers died.

The number of overdose deaths since 1999 far surpasses the death toll of US soldiers in all three wars.

 

THE HARD TRUTHS

Addiction touches every single part of our society around the globe.

 

According to Center on Addiction.org article by Joseph A. Califano, Jr.[7] (11/01/08): Americans, comprising only 4% of the world’s population, consume two-thirds of the world’s illegal drugs.

 

How does this staggering figure affect us?

 

Health care. Almost a quarter of a trillion dollars of the nation’s yearly health-care bill is attributable to substance abuse and addiction. At any given time, approximately 10 percent of the US population is abusing drugs and alcohol, with multitudes of families, friends, neighbors, employers, and co-workers being directly affected. The costs associated with drug and alcohol use total nearly $600 billion in lost revenue, health care, legal fees, and damages each year. – Source Addiction Campuses.com[8]

 

Prison overcrowding. Alcohol and other drug abuse is involved in most violent and property crimes, with 80% of the nation’s adult inmates and juvenile arrestees either committing their offenses while high, stealing to buy drugs, violating alcohol or drug laws, having a history of substance abuse/addiction, or sharing some mix of these characteristics.

 

Families broken: 70% of abused and neglected children have alcohol or drug abusing parents. 90% of homeless are alcoholics or alcohol abusers; 60% abuse other drugs. Drug abuse is associated with higher rates of foster care child placements, child abuse, college sexual assaults, prison sentences, and lost productivity coupled with increased work-related injuries. Drug or alcohol abuse is the primary cause of more than 75 percent of all foster placements, and 80 percent of all child abuse and neglect cases cite drug or alcohol abuse as a primary factor. Rates of substance abuse among youth in foster care are significantly higher than in comparative populations. Specific drug types are associated with higher rates of child custody losses. For example, fewer than 10 percent of babies born to untreated heroin addicted mothers reside with their biological mothers at five years of age. And sadly, children of drug addicted individuals are eight times as likely to abuse drugs as adults.

 

Crisis at the border: People in Central American countries where drug cartels rule are under siege by the cartels, specifically in the area known as the Northern Triangle of Latin America – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. These criminals run everything. The people and government are held hostage by their own countrymen. The violence inflicted on citizens of these countries is the main reason so many flee, illegally, to the US.

 

An online article on June 20, 2018 via NBC News[9]: “…communities in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are so racked with violence, so terrorized by gangs and so infiltrated by drug cartels, they had no choice but to leave.”

 

Time reported on June 21, 2018[10]: “People are leaving because they are suffering from high levels of violence from gangs and other organized criminal groups. These gangs want to recruit minors, they carry out extortion, kidnapping, sexually abusing girls,” says Francesca Fontanini, spokesperson for the UNHCR in the Americas. “This flow of families from Central America will not stop because if the root causes are still there these people will keep coming to the U.S. or to other countries.”

 

The violence in the region is driven by a mix of crime groups, from street gangs such as the Mara Salvatrucha to drug cartels that move billions of dollars. The gunmen not only target rivals but regularly go after “civilians” sometimes just for being in the wrong place in the wrong time.”

 

Excerpts from a video posted on Vox.com by Christina Thornell and Sam Ellis on February 12, 2019: “One of the main sources of this border crisis is cocaine routes, and their damage can be traced back to the 1970s. The US users were spending tens of billions of dollars on cocaine annually. To prevent the growing influx of the drug, the US cracked down on the most popular cocaine route, the one that brought shipments from Colombia to Miami through the Caribbean. As a result, the cartels shifted their routes toward Mexico and Central America, triggering a damaging cycle of violence fueled by criminal organizations, corrupt governments, and “iron fist” policies supported by the US.” Source: Vox.com[11]

 

Epidemic[12]: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency in 2017 regarding the opioid crisis.

 

U.S. Arrest Rates are soaring: According to DrugWarFacts.org[13].

 

"Crime in the United States 2017 - Arrests," FBI Uniform Crime Report (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice, September 2018), p. 1, and Arrest Table: Arrests for Drug Abuse Violations.

 

2018: Of the estimated 1,654,282 drug law violations in the US in 2018, 86.4% (1,429,300) were for possession of a controlled substance. Only 13.6% (224,982) were for sale or manufacture of a drug.

 

2017: Of the estimated 1,632,921 drug law violations in the US in 2017, 85.4% (1,394,515) were for possession of a controlled substance. Only 14.6% (238,404) were for sale or manufacture of a drug.

 

2015: Of the estimated 1,488,707 arrests for drug law violations in the US in 2015, 83.9% (1,249,025) were for possession of a controlled substance. Only 16.1% (239,682) were for sale or manufacture of a drug.

 

2010: Of the estimated 1,638,846 arrests for drug law violations in the US in 2010, 81.9% (1,342,215) were for possession of a controlled substance. Only 18.1% (296,631) were for sale or manufacture of a drug.

 

THESE PERCENTAGES NEED TO CHANGE – arrests should be focused on the manufacturers and dealers. Addicts need medical intervention immediately upon the first drug offense.

 

Costs of Substance Abuse (according to National Institute on Drug Abuse)[14]:

 

Health Care

Overall

Year Estimate Based On

Tobacco

$168 billion

$300 billion

2010

Alcohol

$27 billion

$249 billion

2010

Illicit Drugs

$11 billion

$193 billion

2007

Prescription Opioids

$26 billion

$78.5 billion

2013

 

 

***

WHY I WROTE THE REMEMDIUM SERIES: Tainted Cure, Tainted Reality, Tainted Future, and Tainted World

 

REMEMDIUM – Latin, noun:

1.               Cure created in memoriam

2.               How the end of the world began

 

The post-apocalyptic genre tends to allegorically reflect current hot-button issues in society.

Ever since The Magic Island by W.B. Seabrook in 1929 hit the bookshelves, the reasoning behind our collective morbid infatuation with dead bodies rising from the grave, all gooey, rotten, rank and hungry, wreaking havoc on those still alive, tends to change due to current societal fears of the time.

An online article, “How the zombie represents America’s deepest fears[15]” written by Zachary Crockett and Javier Zarracina discusses the “…sociopolitical history of zombies, from Haiti to The Walking Dead.”

These include:

From Haiti to Hollywood: fear of voodoo and primitive culture

The atomic zombie: fear of nuclear extinction and the Red Scare

The apocalypse zombie: a response to civil rights and the Vietnam War

The pandemic zombie: fear of mass contagion

The post-apocalyptic zombie: fear of each other

***

Biological pandemics, government experiments gone awry, otherworldly gunk or some crazed dictator intent on making all the subjects of his or her country mindless followers—again, what more could I add to the genre? After all, I write suspense novels. What in the world made me think I could—or should—jump into sci-fi?


Unfortunately, the answer was the culmination of a painful, eight-year-long journey. It wasn’t until dealing with a family member struggling with addiction and all the ripple effects drug culture has on the addict, those who love them, and society as a whole did the idea spark to life.


I think a few of my family members thought I finally snapped the last tendril of sanity. I jumped from the porch swing and yelled, “Yes! I’ve got it! The zombie apocalypse happens from a cure for addiction falling into the wrong hands!”


Tainted Cure, Tainted Reality, Tainted Future and Tainted World incorporate the zombie genre as a way to explore how drug dependency, abuse by multi-generations, and the horrific overdose death rate, effects our society every day, and how if localized epidemic zones aren’t addressed—right now—will turn into a worldwide pandemic.

 

Addiction, just like mindless zombies, cares not of your race, creed, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious views, age, social class or intellect. The difference between the two is if bitten by a zombie, you die; if addiction bites you, there is hope for recovery.

 

Sometimes.

 

You may not be an addict and maybe you have never experienced the agony of loving a family member or friend suffering with addiction, but those things do not grant you immunity to the devastating effects of drug abuse in our culture, which, by the way, still glamorizes getting ‘high’ and the ‘party’ lifestyle, and occasionally, glorifies the life of dealers as though the soulless, evil individuals are people to emulate.

 

This glorification of criminal activity needs to stop. Right now.

 

Throughout the four-book Rememdium Series, I wanted to expose the truth about the epidemic of addiction, and yes, it is an epidemic.

 

Babies.

 

Adults.

 

Teenagers.

 

Elderly.


Addiction, like justice is supposed to be, is blind; everyone is welcome to partake in the deadly game by the poison.

 

Despite years of educational courses in schools starting in elementary and all the way through college, multitudes of news reports, parents teaching their children to steer clear of drugs, the overdose rate has risen every single year.

 

The crisis in our world is terrifying—the stuff of nightmares—actually worse than any nightmare because it is real. It is happening right now.

 

The post-apocalyptic zombie: fear of destruction from within due to addiction – and it has already begun

 

THE MORE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS:

 

How do we stop it before it’s too late?

Why do American citizens use the highest percentage of the world’s drugs?

Where will U.S. citizens flee to when our country is overrun with cartels and violence?

If the war on drugs, education, arrests and rehabilitation clinics aren’t stopping the upward trajectory of U.S. drug abuse, what will?



[2] Ciccarone, D., International Journal of Drug Policy, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2019.01.010

[12] hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/index.html

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