Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed new data about overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2017. Its findings were grim:
- There were more than 70,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2017 (4,854 of those were in Ohio, according to the Ohio department of Health).
- Overdose deaths increased across the U.S. by 10 percent and in Ohio by 20 percent.
- Ohio had the second highest rate of overdose deaths, behind only West Virginia.
- Most states in the western half of the U.S. had lower than average rates of overdoses. Most of the states with higher than average overdose death rates were in the eastern half of the U.S.
Synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, are driving increases in overdose deaths. At the same time, overdose deaths and deaths due to suicide are significant factors behind the
CDC’s report that life expectancy in the U.S. is declining.
As CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said, “These sobering statistics are a wake-up call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable.”
“Preventable” is the key word in Dr. Redfield’s statement. A lot of discussions and public policy center around treatment and law enforcement—both of which are important when it comes to reducing overdose deaths—but we cannot ignore the value of prevention.
We cannot arrest or treat our way out of this epidemic. The public policies we enact in response to this crisis must also include universal, primary prevention. Unfortunately, those who enact public policy don’t always know what prevention is, let alone what constitutes effective prevention.
It’s up to us to educate our communities about prevention. I encourage each of you take time this week to help others in your community understand the value and importance of prevention.