As we continue to experience the coronavirus (Omicron), the opioid epidemic continues to pose a serious threat as well. The opioid epidemic is the leading cause of overdose death, with over 70,000 Americans dying annually from drug overdoses. Over two-thirds (67.8%) are caused by opioids. Many Americans who become addicted to opioids do so after initially receiving a prescription as a treatment regimen for pain following surgery. We also know that many people use other varied substances in an attempt to control and/or ease their symptoms due to their mental health problems, while others develop mental health problems related to their compulsive drug use. In either case, people suffering from mental health conditions are more likely to be prescribed opioids and develop a dependence on them. Mental health issues are at the core of what is happening in our society.
Suicide is increasing. Opioid-related deaths are increasing. Along with mental health professionals, faith- and community-based organizations must increase their understanding of the opioid crisis. The United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has developed an Opioid Epidemic Practical Toolkit to guide community and faith leaders’ response to the opioid epidemic, including bringing hope and healing to the addicted and reduce the stigma associated with substance abuse. The toolkit shares information on how to recognize substance abuse and ways to address the epidemic. Recommendations include being available by opening your doors, increasing awareness, building community capacity, getting ahead of the problem, promoting resources, and connecting, collaborating, and celebrating for maximum success.