The renewed war on drugs, specifically opioid drugs, has created significant negative consequences for an unintended people group — people with chronic illness and chronic pain. Contrary to popular belief, that people group is not responsible for the opioid overdose epidemic, yet they are the ones being targeted by state governments across the country in a noble but misdirected effort to control opioid-related overdose deaths.

According to the CDC’s 2018 Annual Surveillance Report, the climbing opioid overdose death rates correlate strongly with the illicit distribution and manufacturing of synthetic opioids, particularly fentanyl. Overdose deaths involving heroin, cocaine and psychostimulants add to the opioid mortality rates.

Data shows that prescriptions for opioid medications from medical professionals have dropped significantly since 2010 and continue to decline, yet the opioid overdose death rates are climbing, suggesting that prescription pain medication may not be the primary cause of the current opioid overdose epidemic. According to the CDC, more than three-quarters of opioid-related overdoses occurring between 2016-2017, were the result of individuals combining illicit and pharmaceutical type opioid drugs. Further, more than half of all overdoses during the same time period were caused by the use of illicit opioid drugs alone.

People suffering with chronic illnesses need pain control. Currently, the only effective pain control medications available are opioid based. Data shows chronically ill people are not the demographic driving the opioid overdose crisis, yet they are the ones who are being unnecessarily targeted and losing their right to access quality of life-enhancing medication.

Christa Kay, Lisbon Falls

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