Addressing the Opioid Epidemic
Many of us know all too well the pain of seeing a loved one struggle with addiction. And in every corner of the state, Vermonters are struggling with opioid addiction. This is a crisis that demands our full attention and resources.
In recent years, we have seen significant increases in substance use and highly lethal synthetic opioids like fentanyl entering the drug supply. And during the pandemic, Vermont witnessed the highest percentage increase of overdose deaths of any state in the U.S., up by nearly 70% from 123 to 209 deaths.
This epidemic was created by the greed of the pharmaceutical industry and worsened by the War on Drugs. It has devastated those dealing with addiction by funneling them into the criminal justice system, stigmatizing addiction, and funneling trillions of dollars to punitive and harmful practices. We must treat addiction like the health care crisis it is and end the corporate greed that created and sustains this crisis.
We must prioritize combating, ending, and learning from this epidemic. This includes fostering better communication between counties and with neighboring states, investing in long-term treatment programs and rehabilitation services for those struggling with addiction, and reforming our healthcare delivery system so that patients are not over prescribed pain-killers that can lead to addiction.
For years, frontline advocates have been sounding the alarm to provide greater help to Vermonters to cope with and overcome substance use disorder. It’s time we listen to them, fund programs that work, and develop the many necessary paths needed to enable long-term recovery.