With over 3,000 OD deaths the stigma must stop (Opinion)
The state Attorney General's Office put out numbers showing as of Dec. 30 3,163 people died from drug overdoses in New Jersey last year. That is a 15% increase of 2017. It is the first time overdose deaths have gone beyond the 3,000 mark in a given year here.
Does anyone care? Either about those numbers or even this article? Let's put some perspective to this.
The 9/11 attacks claimed 2,977 victims in total.
The sinking of the Titanic killed an estimated 1,517.
Hurricane Katrina killed 1,833.
Mass shootings in the U.S. between 1982 and November 19, 2018 killed 875 victims, according to Statista.com.
Yet here we are with a bigger disaster every single year now in New Jersey and it doesn't seem to draw nearly the same attention. The most likely reason is obvious. Most people don't consider a person who overdoses on drugs a victim. People reject the notion of 'it can happen to anybody,' despite the sad fact that so many of these addictions start with legally prescribed pain meds from licensed doctors. Despite the fact that many people who have ended up heroin addicts started out as high school athletes who never so much as smoked marijuana or a cigarette and fell prey to medicine prescribed for an injury.
People get hung up on whether drug addiction is a 'disease.' While we argue semantics, there are 3,000 people in New Jersey not alive today who were one year ago. Many want to think of them as losers, rejects who should have known better. Pathetic fools who "did it to themselves." Even if this were true (it's not), why does this matter so much? If you're one of those people who doesn't care, who thinks it cannot happen to anybody, may I gently ask a question?
Are you perfect?
Have you never struggled with anything your entire life? If so, congratulations. You've pulled off a miracle. Most don't have that sort of grace. Many will struggle with things like diets. In New Jersey, more than 31% of people aged 45 to 64 are obese. Is that you? Have you ever tried to diet and failed? Promised this time you would be faithful in going to the gym and then didn't? Or there's the 14% of all New Jersey adults who are smokers. Ever tried quitting, did for a few days or weeks, then went back? Whether it's alcohol, gambling, or just promising to spend less time glued to your phone most people have failed at changing a thing about themselves at some point.
Yet when it comes to this scourge of overdoses, there seems to be no sympathy. In a poll on NJ1015.com by Joe Votruba in 2012, 51% of online voters felt drug addiction being called a disease was just an excuse and another 6% were unsure. In 2017 I did a poll on NJ1015.com asking if people had sympathy for heroin addicts. 60% said they did not.
I understand the frustration society may feel towards the drug addicted. But that frustration ought to be borne of love, not hate.
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