I am a clinical psychotherapist and faculty member at Mount Aloysius College in the psychology and community counseling department.
Here are some of my professional observations:
Drug deaths will continue to occur, in part, because as a society we are obsessed with them.
The United States makes, takes and sells the most drugs. And we give mixed messages about psychoactive agents such as nicotine and alcohol, especially.
With regard to premature morbidity and mortality, nicotine and alcohol are the top two, respectively. These agents are not on the controlled substance schedule list. And in fact, alcohol is glorified in media commercials.
Males are about four times more likely to develop addictions. And the peak age of abuse is between 18 and 26. The CNS depressants such as alcohol, heroin and narcotic analgesics are ingested concurrently and kill via respiratory arrest as they paralyze the brain stem.
All these agents are easily available from both legal and illegal sources.
They are far more powerful than our brain's endogenous endorphins. Thus, when smoked or "mainlined" they are capable of highjacking the brain in one dose.
In time they cause irreversible brain neuromodulation.
With regard to physical pain, we cannot easily differentiate psychic from somatic pain. And we have no objective and accurate way to measure it. The most widely used tool for pain, is the "subjective units of distress" on a scale of 1 to 10.
And the three well-known "gateway" agents are: marijuana, nicotine and alcohol.
Clinical intervention is complex, takes several years an episode, and sadly, two-thirds of clients will relapse three to four times until they either die, or commit to lifelong, and near-complete sobriety.
So both as a member of our society, and a clinical professional, we have our work cut out for us. The prognosis for successful outcomes is grim.
Richard G. Kensinger