There are many ways for you as an individual to help people who are struggling with opioid addiction. You can call your government officials to ask them to obtain more funding for your state’s treatment centers, you can give money to non-profit organizations that help addicts, and you can make sure anyone you know who is struggling with this terrible substance use disorder gets the help they need in the form of rehab. However, it can seem daunting to try and take on such a serious, nationwide crisis.

As stated by, the opioid epidemic claimed over 59,000 lives in 2016 alone. In addition, the epidemic has led to drug overdoses becoming the leading cause of death in Americans 50 years of age and younger. This is a serious problem that requires serious solutions. The current administration has attempted to step up, and President Trump has declared the crisis to be a public health emergency. Unfortunately, though, this does not seem to be enough to actually create real change.

A public health emergency is a serious declaration, but it is usually reserved for short-term issues like those caused by natural disasters. Long-term problems like the opioid crisis, which has worsened every year since the mid-1990s when pharmaceutical companies began aggressively marketing these drugs, must be declared states of emergency. A state of emergency lasts for a year (unless it is renewed by the current president), and it allows for many changes a public health emergency cannot provide. In general, a state of emergency seems to be what we would need as a nation to actually begin to curb the opioid abuse crisis.

Opioid addiction is a serious problem and requires many options for treatment and aid. Many people in the United States suffer from this disorder without getting the proper help they need, partially because, as a country, we have never taken this disorder seriously enough. If we were to declare a state of emergency, a number of changes could be made to the way we treat and deal with opioid addiction, some of which could even change the way people see the problem. Under a public health emergency, however, some changes could be made but none that will truly reverse deeply rooted issues that are associated with the problem.

If we want to begin fighting the opioid crisis and making real change when it comes to this issue, we will need the tools to do so. This means declaring the crisis a state of emergency to allow government departments to work together and cut through the bureaucratic red tape that prevents change from occurring quickly. In addition, we should also work together as citizens to help others understand that opioid addiction is an illness that requires treatment and not a defect of character. If we can begin to take the problem seriously, we may be able to affect real, honest change and start to roll back the issue of opioid abuse and addiction in the years to come.