A closer look at drug abuse and addiction rates in Pennsylvania as well as the United States in general
Most of us know someone who has been negatively affected by drug addiction or some type of substance abuse matter – or maybe we’ve even battled an addiction to drugs or alcohol ourselves. Drug addiction is a prominent problem in communities around the world, but it seems that, comparatively speaking, the United States is worse than other countries around the world, especially when it comes to opioid class drugs. Likewise, it seems too that Pennsylvania ranks poorly among other states when it comes to matters of addiction. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Pennsylvania’s drug overdose mortality rate in 2017 was ranked third in the nation with a total of 5,388 overdose deaths.
So what’s going on? Why are we in worse shape than other states and nations around the world?
First, let’s pin down just how common drug addiction in the US is. The data should guide our thinking. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2013, an estimated 24.6 million Americans aged 12 or older – 9.4 percent of the population – had used an illicit drug in the past month. This number is up from 8.3 percent in 2002. The United States uses more opioids and methamphetamine than any European country, and the U.S. is at the top of the list when it comes to drug overdose deaths.
Despite these startling statistics, the United States rates middling when it comes to its addiction treatment and drug rehab infrastructure. It’s hard to find help, particularly if you live in rural, impoverished, or underserved communities. Mental health care is also scarce in many areas. Even if care is available, many people don’t seek help due to stigma.
The most vivid example of the US’s failure to manage addiction is the opioid crisis. According to popular account, the epidemic traces its origins to the late 1990s when pharmaceutical companies began marketing opioids as a safe, non-addictive way to treat pain. As a result, health care providers began prescribing them at greater rates, flooding many communities with an influx of pills and leading to widespread opioid-painkiller addiction (which leads to heroin use once the pill source runs dry) and overdose deaths.
Here in Pennsylvania we actually find ourselves in the epicenter of opioid abuse and related overdose deaths. In fact I heard a story recently, and this has not been confirmed but it’s easy to believe, that a town in Ohio recently needed to create a makeshift morgue out of an old airplane hanger because the county morgue ran out of space.
In the final analysis it’s also important to remember that America is the richest nation in the world. Yes we have our poverty stricken areas, but there is immense money and affluence from coast to coast. You don’t hear much about drug cartels getting caught pushing 100 kilos of cocaine into Japan, or France, or Zimbabwe or wherever. The fact is that even the middle-America blue collar worker living check to check is still better off than 75% of the rest of the world.
Across the country, many state and federal agencies are ramping up their addiction treatment and drug rehab efforts, but given the severity of the problem in many of the hardest-hit communities, it will take a focused, collaborative effort to reverse the current trend.
Progressive Living operates several sober living homes and addiction recovery houses throughout PA, including; Levittown, Bristol and Morrissville, as well as a sober living apartment complex in Ewing, New Jersey — view our locations. In addition, we also offer the full scope of drug & alcohol addiction treatment services through our partner rehab, DayBreak Treatment Center. To learn more about Progressive Living please contact us 7 days a week at (215) 584-0340 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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