Letter to the Editor: Overdose deaths should be in headlines, too

The COVID-19 pandemic is getting all the headlines. Politics are coming in second. But there is something much more pervasive that needs our attention. This country is suffering a severe opioid crisis. The pandemic is only making it worse. Overdose fatalities are at an all-time high.

Suspected overdoses nationally (not all resulting in deaths) rose 18% in March of this year compared to last year, 29% in April and 42% in May.

Delaware’s overdose rate has risen steadily since 2012. Overdose deaths totaled 431 in 2019. In 2018, Delaware had the second-highest rate of overdose deaths in the nation, 43.8 for every 100,000 people. Already this year, we have had over 250 deaths. The substance most commonly associated with overdose deaths is fentanyl. It’s 50 times more potent than heroin and is much cheaper. It is being laced into everything, including marijuana, Percocet, Xanax, heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine. A drug toxicity death occurs every 11 minutes in the United States. That’s 500,000 deaths between 2000 and 2020.

Since 2012, fentanyl-related deaths in Delaware have increased steadily, including nearly 90% between 2013 and 2014 in Kent and Sussex counties. New Castle County experienced a 130% increase between 2014 and 2015.

International Overdose Awareness Day was Aug. 31. You have just been made aware. It’s up to us, everyday people who will sooner or later be affected by this epidemic, to speak up for those who cannot speak anymore. This is an election year, and we need to make sure that our elected officials commit to work together to end this crisis.

Jeannie Wilson