Opioid Addiction Isn’t The Disease; It’s The Symptom | HuffPost – 06/16/2017 – by Clay Marsh, Contributor Vice President and Executive Dean for Health Sciences, West Virginia University
The same issues leading to the opioid epidemic are what drives the tremendous cost and disease burden of our country at large.
The opioid epidemic is merely a symptom of a much larger crisis, one we as Americans must learn to solve: the crisis of isolation, despair and hopelessness. …communities are crucial to our wellbeing: irrespective of genus, the most psychologically damaging experience any young creature, human or animal, can have is being separated from the group and abandoned to fend for itself.
And yet, increasingly, more and more of us are, in a way, abandoned and afraid.
Large and sheltering communities, the kind Dunbar imagined, have become a rarity, as the structures that once supported them—religious institutions, civic institutions, strong families—were weakened by a host of economic and sociological conditions. Social media and other technologies compound the problem by giving us an inflated sense of social connection, suggesting that we aren’t really isolated with so many friends or followers online.
But the real ties that keep us safe, the ties of family and community and society, are increasingly looser and looser, which is why more and more Americans turn to drugs and other forms of escape.
Isolation and despair, not opioids, is our true epidemic.
There’s much science to support this assertion. Anne Case and Angus Deaton, who won the Nobel prize for economics, found that white middle-aged people that are 50 to 55 years old and have a high school education or less are suffering a death rate that rivals the peak of the AIDS epidemic. In contrast, almost every other socioeconomic group experienced enhanced lifespans over the same time period.
They are dying of overdose, suicide and chronic liver disease, all hallmarks of addiction. Recently, these findings have been augmented to show that the underlying reason for this issue is despair and hopelessness.
Thus, it appears that how we see the world and our perception of our community status is critical for our health and our resilience to drugs and to disease.
The answer to our opioid epidemic, then, is the same as the answer to our increasing health care spending and reduced health and lifespan of our population. It’s a very human and perceptional one. It is predicated on realizing that the problem is connected to our hard-wiring as humans to each other and to our survival.
We need strong connections to others.
We need a strong purpose.
We need a mindset of gratitude.
We need to realize that abundance and prosperity
is in mindset, not in bank account.
We need communities of love and safety.
Building them will involve not only scientists and law enforcement officials and policy makers but every single one of us.