Made in China. Packaged in Mexico. Deadly in America.
Remember Malaysia Airlines Flight 370? It’s the one that disappeared off the face of the earth in 2014 taking the souls of 239 people with it to never to be seen or heard from again. A tragedy. Families devasted. Incredible sadness and confusion.
I know what you are thinking. You thought this was a post about the drug overdose crisis in America. Why are we talking about a missing plane from nearly a decade ago?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 106,000 Americans died from drug-related overdoses in 2021. A staggering, horrific, and unacceptable number. That’s roughly 290 deaths per day or the equivalent of a Flight 370 disappearing over American skies every single day – plus some.
Imagine this scenario. Every day, dozens of commercial flights leave New York headed for sunny Florida. Every day one of them disappears. Never to be seen or heard from again.
Surely, if the United States had a deadly airline tragedy every single day, we would do something about it, right? There would be outrage. There would be demands for answers. There would be protests. Surely, we would ground all flights and find an immediate solution to this problem, right?
Of course, we would. So why aren’t we approaching the drug problem with the same intensity? Why aren’t we cutting off Fentanyl and other illicit drugs at their source? Why aren’t we providing solutions for these families?
I was recently joined by Dr. Jeff Reynolds – a highly sought after thought leader and expert in the areas of addiction, substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, and mental health for a discussion on this crisis.
According to Dr. Reynolds, who currently serves as President & CEO of the Family & Children’s Association and is well known for his past service as Executive Director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, the major root cause for this crisis all boils down to mental health and the lack of resources we commit to this cause.
“You legalize alcohol in every possible setting, you legalize cannabis, you are expanding gambling opportunities every chance you get, but not giving us the resources to clean up the mess – it’s a prescription for disaster,” said Dr. Reynolds.
Post covid, drug use is way up and alcohol use has increased between 35% and 40%. During the height of the pandemic, when they shut down our businesses and locked us in our homes, they simultaneously decided that alcohol was an essential service. You were able to leave your house to go get take-out alcohol from your favorite local bar but not go to church or the gym. These decisions, while good for some business, were detrimental to our collective mental health and overall wellbeing.
It's an all-too-familiar problem to those counselors working in this space. Dr. Reynolds says, “we are always a step behind chasing the new drug.” Currently, fentanyl – which is 50 times more powerful than morphine – is the leading cause of current overdoses. It is a synthetic drug formulated in China, prepared and packaged by cartels in Mexico, and finally shipped across our southern border to kill Americans.
A major issue with fentanyl is that drug dealers often hide it in other drugs including counterfeit prescription pills, cocaine, and even marijuana. When a student on a college campus takes something for anxiety or ADHD that they got from a friend it runs a high risk of being tainted with fentanyl. The unassuming college student swallows just one pill and dies of an overdose having never known they were exposed to fentanyl.
So here we are today. We’ve reached a tipping point. We either start addressing this problem or we let it continue to destroy society. Do we wait for the government and politicians to do something, or perhaps, do we take a direct, hands-on approach in our own lives? Dr. Reynolds says, “we have to do a better job at prevention – kids need to be able to talk about what they are feeling and experiencing, and we need to catch them early on in life at age 5, 6, and 7 to teach them how to ask for help.”
Parents can also take a more proactive role with their children as well. The youth are navigating life with 24/7 access to social media, seeing content that glorifies drinking, partying, and sex. In many cases, parents don’t even realize their children are struggling with the anxiety and depression that comes from constant social media use. Dr. Reynolds says just setting a good example and communicating with your kids will have a huge impact. “Good prevention is sustained and hands on – you empower the school districts to provide more resources, you empower parents to lead by example, and you seek out help when you need it.”
Thankfully, there are resources available for people who want to change the status quo and make better choices. A great first step is reaching out to Dr. Reynolds and his team at www.fcali.org where they can help you get the ball rolling towards a better future.
Sadly, this problem is not going away. We can close our borders. We can prosecute drug dealers to the fullest extent of the law. We can develop better testing kits to detect fentanyl and other deadly drugs. All great and necessary steps. But until we better educate our children, until we implement more resources, and until we address the underlying mental health issues that led someone to drug and alcohol abuse this problem will remain.
I am hopeful that with people like Dr. Jeff Reynolds leading the way and raising awareness we have a fighting chance to land those plans safely and ensure that those nearly 300 Americans who die from overdose each day make it home to their families.