Hope in a Time of Crisis: Communities Organize to Fight Opioid Addiction

by Jack Firneno

Girl comforting her friendIt’s impossible to talk about pain management in 2017, and in Southeastern Pennsylvania, without also exploring the opioid crisis.

The Drug Enforcement Agency’s analysis of drug-related deaths in 2015 shows a continued rise in overdoses statewide, especially from opioids. Published last July, it documents 3,383 drug-related deaths across Pennsylvania that year. Heroin and fentanyl, a synthetic opioid often mixed with heroin, were present in 54.6 and 27 percent, respectively, of all overdose deaths.

That means, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, that opioid overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death—not just drug-related fatalities—in the state. Bucks and Montgomery counties, with their mix of densely populated and rural areas, ranked in about the middle of the list, with 117 deaths in Bucks and 136 in Montgomery.

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Letter from the Publisher, June 2017

PAIN has an element of blank; / It cannot recollect

When it began, or if there were / A day when it was not.

It has no future but itself, / Its infinite realms contain

Its past, enlightened to perceive / New periods of pain.

~Emily Dickenson

Karen Meshkov, Natural Awakenings BuxMontPain is a chronic condition shared by 100 million Americans; it’s the leading reason people go to doctors in the U.S., costing the nation upwards of $635 billion a year—more than cancer, heart disease and diabetes combined, according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine.

WebMD explains how vast and amorphous the condition can be, saying, “Chronic pain can be mild or excruciating, episodic or continuous, merely inconvenient or totally incapacitating…the signals of pain remain active in the nervous system for months or even years.” Sometimes the cause is known, or eventually discovered; sometimes the source remains a mystery.

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