In 2018 Connecticut overdose deaths dropped after six years of steady rises. Was it a plateau? Or just a pause in a grim climb? The first six months of 2019 hinted that the deaths might be be on the upward move again, but none of us were prepared for yesterday's news from the Connecticut Medical Examiner's Office.
1200. An eighteen percent increase over 2018.
94% of the deaths involved opioids.
The dead ranged from 17 to 74.
Fentanyl was present in 979 of the deaths (82%), its most ever, continuing its unremitting rise since 2012 when it was detected in only 12 deaths.
What's the answer?
End the stigma. Treat drug users like we treat victims of heart disease, lung disease, diabetes. With compassion, love and evidenced based medical care.
Recognize addiction for what it is — a chronic brain disease, not a character flaw.
Make rehab available to those who want it and make medication assisted therapy (MAT) methadone and buprenorphine available to all who want it.
For those who aren't ready for rehab or MAT, bring them in from the cold, open drug overdose prevention sites where users can be in the presence of trained providers instead of forcing them to shoot up behind dumpsters, in park thicket and in locked public restrooms where we find them dead.
Make naloxone as widely available as possible and drill in the message, never use opioids alone.
Sue the pharmaceutical companies for their pivotal role in creating the epidemic (lying about the addictive qualities of their products and for producing massive quantities of painkillers even though they knew they were shipping vast amounts to distributors who were then flooding the black market with their products.
Use the money to fund a drug war against addiction.
Above all, be kind to those afflicted.