The silent pandemic of the US, over 100 thousand deaths from overdoses in a year: ‘War that kills more than weapons and road accidents combined’

The silent pandemic of the US, over 100 thousand deaths from overdoses in a year: ‘War that kills more than weapons and road accidents combined’
The silent pandemic of the US, over 100 thousand deaths from overdoses in a year: ‘War that kills more than weapons and road accidents combined’

If you pass by Elm Street, the main artery it cuts Manchester, New Hampshire, we cannot fail to notice the dozens of men and women – often boys, sometimes people who are older in age – who lie on the ground, on cartons or blankets. They are not alcoholics, they are not just homeless. They are people with drug problems. I’m in Manchester because Manchester is the drug capital of the state. Not far away, a Lawrence, there is the arrival and distribution center for the New England from heroin, crack and other opioids. Consumers are mainly concentrated in Manchester. The city has overdose rates among the highest in America: two deaths for every 10 thousand people. At Helping Hands, a Christian center housed in a red brick building not far from the center, they give refuge to those trying to beat addictions. “It’s like a war. No one has declared it but the dead here are those of a conflict ”, they say.

The latest figures from the American “war” are indeed impressive. Seconds i Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Cdc), there have been in one year over 100 thousand dead in United States per overdose. The period considered is the one that from April 2020 arrives to April 2021, with a 28.5% increase compared to the previous year. The enormity of the numbers forced Joe Biden has to intervene. “We cannot overlook this epidemic of losses that affects families and communities across the country,” the president said. Biden recalls that inAmerican Rescue Plan, the post-Covid aid plan approved in March, there are $ 1,500 million for people with addiction problems, and more are being allocated “to strengthen prevention, promote harm reduction and reduce the supply of harmful substances” . Above all, the idea is to widen access to naloxone, a synthetic drug that can block the effects of opioids, particularly an overdose. “Nobody should die in America because they can’t get naloxone,” he says Rahul Gupta, who directs theOffice of National Drug Control Policy.

As Covid-19 sowed death, another, more silent but equally terrible epidemic was killing thousands of people in the United States. Drug deaths, the figures say, have been in one year more numerous than those for traffic accidents and combined firearms. The casualties have doubled since 2015. The age group most affected is that between 25 and 54, mainly males (70% of victims). The majority of deaths, again, are mainly caused by the abuse of fentanyl, a drug a hundred times more powerful than morphine, often used in conjunction with heroin e cocaine to enhance its effects. But overdoses caused by have also increased amphetamines, methamphetamine, cocaine and other semi-synthetic opioids, often prescribed by doctors such as pain relievers. It’s a universe of acronyms – Speed, Crystal, Bennie, Frisco Speed, Meth, Crank, Ice, Rock, Shabu – which sowed mourning almost everywhere. The deaths increased by 50% in California, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia, Kentucky. In Vermont, the increase is as much as 85%. The increase in casualties in Oregon, Nevada, Washington State, Colorado, Minnesota, Alaska, Nebraska, Virginia was lower, but still by 40%. A phenomenon that once appeared concentrated mainly in the states of the old industrial belt, in the east and in the center, has now become one national tragedy.

It does not escape that the period in which the deaths had the terrible surge is also the one in which Covid sowed its destruction. Experts explain that the job loss, the closure of schools, much more difficult access to hospitals and rehabilitation centers have deepened addictions, depressions, sense of abandonment. The communities have crumbled, closed in on themselves and the weakest have been paying the consequences. The data made available by the CDC again reveal that the vast majority of victims had been drug addicts for some time or were in the process of detoxification. Covid-19, the resulting stress and isolation, therefore functioned as an accelerator of pre-existing dynamics. Particularly impressive are the data on fentanyl, an opioid used for anesthesia and for the treatment of oncological pains, whose diffusion in the illegal drugs market has become widespread (it is also often used to cut off batches of cocaine and other drugs, therefore sold without the knowledge of the buyer). At the Drug Enforcement Administration, the federal agency that fights drug trafficking, say they seized enough fentanyl this year to supply every US citizen with a lethal dose. “And, every day, the seizures of new matches continue”, they explain.

Part i federal funding, apart from the work of repression (much of the US drug comes from Mexican cartels, which rework components of mainly Chinese origin), one wonders at this point what to do. One possible way is certainly there reduction of medical prescriptions who prescribe pain relievers. American doctors have abused it extensively in the past years, so much so that, explains a CDC expert, “opioids are prescribed when your wisdom tooth grows”. The abuse of pain relievers, from an early age, it has led to forms of drug addiction which in many cases have proved fatal. Another way is certainly that ofaccess to drugs. American doctors need permission from federal authorities before they can prescribe buprenorphine, an opioid with similar efficacy to that of methadone, used to treat addictions. The standard delays its use in many detox centers. A similar argument should also be made for the naloxone. The drug, approved by the Federal and Drug Administration back in 1971, it can precisely block the effects of opioids and thus, in many cases, save from an overdose. The problem is that in many American states it can only be administered by doctors and health personnel and is not made available to families and those who live in contact with the drug addict. It goes without saying that when doctors, and naloxone, arrive, there is often nothing more to be done. The overdose took the person away.

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