Overdose deaths are down, and I’m scared to death


Today the government reported that for the first time in 29 years, the total drug overdose death rate declined by 5%.

That’s good news, right? Well of course a decrease in the death rate is good news, but unfortunately in our immediate gratification--think later culture this good news could have detrimental effects on a public weary of the drum beat of the opioid crisis.  

I’m afraid that people who don’t understand addiction, and everyone needs to, will see this headline, breathe a sigh of relief and say “Well, glad we got that under control.”  

But we don’t.

This small decrease in the death rate could still end up being a statistical error.  Even if it’s real there were tens of thousands of people who died and families grieving. Analysis of the data showed most of the decrease is due to a drop in prescription drug overdose, but NOT a decrease in heroin and fentanyl overdoses.  Even worse, meth is making a roaring comeback.

So I’m pleading, don’t just scroll past the headline and think now everything is fine, that maybe drug using is somehow safer (don’t be surprised if someone who uses makes this claim).  

Educate yourself. We are a long way from where we need to be. Get involved in local organizations that are working to reduce stigma and help individuals and families.  Don’t wait until someone in your family is affected. You already know someone, trust me.

The main reason I’m writing a rock musical about heroin is to save lives by educating people and reducing stigma. And it’s certainly cool if you like the music too but when it hits a stage near you, I hope you leave not just entertained, but informed.

In the words of former Daily Show host Jon Stewart, “stay vigilant!”