President Trump’s declaration of opioids as a public health emergency may provide help to some addicts, but it’s a fairly sure bet that we won’t see a cure for prescription pill addiction any time soon.
Prescription opioids are medicines meant to help fight pain, and are helpful to many who otherwise might be disabled by pain. While there are tens of thousands who have become addicted to them, there are many more whose lives are made better by using them, as long as the use is according to doctors’ orders.
Cancer patients use them for pain relief; so do patients recovering from surgery.
According to the BBC, the United States leads the world in opioid consumption followed by Canada, Germany, Denmark and Austria, in that order. Austrians use about half as many doses per million people every day as Americans do.
Still, fewer than 1 percent of Americans — about 2.4 million — are addicted to opioids or other drugs such as heroin, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state with the highest number of overdose deaths is California, while the state with the highest annual rate of overdose deaths is West Virginia.
Although it is hard to know how many, a lot of those deaths are probably suicides.
Alcoholism is actually a worse problem — far worse. There are about 12 million alcoholics in the U.S., and alcoholism is a factor in millions of crimes against persons. This means there are many collateral victims of alcoholism, far more than there are collateral victims of opioids.
If some are helped by a national focus on opioid abuse, well and good. But don’t expect any miracles.