It would be easy to look at the steady stream of reporting on the opioid crisis and conclude that the problem is all about addiction. Certainly the cost in lives lost has been unacceptably high — more than 183,000 deaths in the last ten years. (More statistical background is available here.)
But the opioid crisis is the story of many kinds of pain and it is about more than addiction.
What is getting lost is the impact this epidemic is having on a wide circle of people who are not addicted. It is affecting people in every age group – children, parents, grandparents, and entire communities, particularly small and rural communities. It is creating chaos in communities that are struggling to cope with the fallout in child welfare, elder abuse, public safety, criminal justice, the workforce, the economy, caregiving, housing, and, of course, health care.
There’s no question we need to work together on solutions. But whether we are health care providers, policymakers, communities, or funders, we first need to widen the lens we are using to consider the problem.