August 22, 2013
After the terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, everyone was distraught and disgusted by that senseless violence. At first people were wondering how something like this could happen, who was the person behind this horrible crime? What could motivate anyone to do something like that? However, it did not take very long before the conversation turned political. The political discussion reared its head again; people wanted to talk about gun control and gun ownership.
Unfortunately, rational discourse did not appear possible. Because in the wake of the tragedy, it seemed that two different camps were just yelling at one another without really listening to the points the other was making. Instead, both parties seemed content to yell at each other while the Sandy Hook parents had to go through the heartache of burying their children. It was not too long before the nation moved onto something else and the debate about gun control fell to the wayside. While we are not making light of the tragedy that occurred in Sandy Hook, countless drug tragedies that happen every day are not even mentioned in the news. However, the truth is that these tragedies deserve a public reaction.
On average, 82 people die because of gun violence every day in the United States. Another 88 people die because of car-related accidents, but there are over 102 drug related deaths per day. When is the last time that we heard stories about those 102 people? Moreover, the trend is worrisome when it comes to these illicit substance fatalities.
Since 2005, the number of fatalities attributed to automobile accidents dropped 25 percent. Over that same period, the number of gun deaths has not changed significantly, but out of the 82 deaths, 52 of them are attributed to accidents or suicides, leaving 30 every day for homicides. Meanwhile, the drug-related deaths are the highest number, yet go mostly unreported.
What Do Those Numbers Represent?
Those 102 drug-related deaths that occur each day refer to fatalities attributed to long-term substance abuse. Even though their number already surpasses the number of deaths from car accidents, it is misleading. The reason it is misleading is that someone dying from a sudden overdose is not included. The 102 deaths account solely for long-term drug abuse.
Last year prescription drug overdoses killed more Americans than cocaine and heroin combined. The primary factors behind these overdoses were predominately pain relievers such as Vicodin and OxyContin. These pain relievers are prescribed for anything ranging from severe injuries to broken bones, all the way to wisdom teeth removal. Even though they are safe in small doses and when prescribed by a physician, they have a high potential for abuse and unfortunately, many doctors have been irresponsible in distributing them.
Prescription Medication Problems
A Los Angeles Times investigation suggested that in the four counties surrounding Los Angeles between 2006 and 2011, almost half (47 percent) of all these deaths were linked to prescription drugs. That same investigation also revealed that 0.1 percent of the doctors who practice in these counties were responsible for the prescriptions for 17 percent of the people who passed away. That totals 71 doctors in all, who each wrote prescriptions for three or more people who later passed away from that very drug that they were prescribed. Four doctors were convicted of drug offenses, another doctor is still awaiting trail, but the remainder of the 71 have never faced any charges at all. Even though we would wish this were an isolated incident in Los Angeles and its surrounding areas, it is happening all over the country.
Society Needs to Wake Up
Mass shootings, especially ones that seem as tragic and senseless as Sandy Hook, create fear within people; it makes them feel as though they have to react right away. However, when we look at the statistics alone without any media hype, parents need to be far more fearful of their children being introduced to prescription medication abuse instead of having to fear a crazed shooter. However, unlike the mass shooting there is no amendment that we can cite to show whether you are for it or against it. Unlike the rare mass shootings, the countless deaths every year that we attribute to drug abuse are not news; they are not sensationalistic enough to make it on the nightly news. The statistics are there, we know that it is a problem that is only going to get worse. If 102 people died from a mysterious virus every day, you can be sure that the CDC would arrive in droves, followed closely by the National Guard, all in an attempt to prevent it from spreading. This is not the case with substance abuse. When it comes to this escalating epidemic, there does not appear to be any sense of urgency.
Why is this Silence Going Unnoticed?
Many people might be surprised to find out that these deaths go unreported. In a nation where people wear pins to signify their support of breast cancer awareness and pins for many other issues that receive nationwide attention, the problem with prescription drug abuse remains largely unreported.
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While American soldiers receive a special report on their local news media, these drugs kill more than 20,000 Americans every year. This should be a major story, we should be demanding that our elected officials do something about this rampant increase and hold the people behind this plague responsible. For too long many people have ignored the problems, officials and experts have stood by, hoping that eventually it would ‘base out’. However, that is clearly not happening; it is a problem that is only going to get better if we decide to proactively address it.