Our nation is in the midst of a public health emergency the likes of which we have not seen since the first decade of AIDS’ spread across America. And much like the early years of the AIDS epidemic, the victims of the current crisis are both vilified and ignored, the families of the victims are shamed into silence, and the public at large doesn’t know enough to protect itself.
I am speaking of drug overdose, which is now killing tens of thousands of Americans annually, while leaving many thousands more mentally and physically disabled for the rest of their lives. The vast majority of drug overdose deaths are the result of two types of highly addictive, and highly profitable, prescription drugs: opiates and benzodiazapenes. In 2010, one of the more than 25, 000 Americans who died as the result of drug overdose was someone I adored with all my heart: my 18-year-old firstborn, my son Henry.
Before I learned that Henry was addicted to pills, I simply had no clue that the problem of pill addiction and overdose was quietly yet savagely ripping apart the East Tennessee community in which we make our home.
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