Below, Odyssey House President Dr. Peter Provet comments on a recent article in The New York Times (“How a ‘Perfect Storm’ in New Hampshire Has Fueled an Opioid Crisis,” News, Jan 21)
Of all the reasons why New Hampshire is leading the country in per capita deaths from opioid overdoses, the most troubling is the shortage of treatment options, and the citizens of that state are not alone. Provisional, national numbers for 2017 are 66,000 overdose deaths, up from a previous record of 64,000 in 2016. Why, given these appalling and predictable death rates, American families are still battling this fatal disease largely on their own, is a national shame.
Each one of these deaths is a tragedy and even more so because the vast majority are preventable. The best treatment programs for opioid addiction have moved quickly to offer a range of lifesaving interventions that include medication-assisted treatment, behavioral therapy, and community-based peer recovery support.
There is no quick cure for addiction. It takes time for substance abusers to rebuild their lives, and relapse is a predictable part of the process. Many communities now have access to the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone, and while lives are being saved because of its increasing availability, surviving an overdose is not treatment, not even close. The epidemic is costing billions of dollars in health care, law enforcement, and loss of human capital. The public must insist that our politicians fund universal, comprehensive treatment. Substance abuse can no longer be treated as a second or third class illness.