Worst Epidemic In U.S. History? Opioid Crisis Now Leading Cause Of Death For Americans Under 50


Democracy Now! (6/7/17)

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. To put the death toll into perspective, opioid deaths have now surpassed the peak in death by car crash in 1972, AIDS deaths in 1995 and gun deaths in 1993. After 20 years of heavy combat in South Vietnam, U.S. military casualties represented only one-third of the death toll from 10 years of opioid overdoses.

Meanwhile, counties and states around the country have filed lawsuits to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for the public health crisis. “The United States is in the midst of the worst drug addiction epidemic in its history,” says Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of opioid policy research at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. He is also co-founder and director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing.

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How Opioid Epidemic Turned Portland Hero Into A Scorned Villain

By Chris D’Angelo
The HuffPost (6/13/17)

Completely heartless” is the only way to describe the crime that George Elwood Tschaggeny allegedly committed last month, Sgt. Pete Simpson, a spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau, told The Oregonian.

As the heroes of a deadly May 26 attack on a Portland train lay bleeding from knife wounds, police say 51-year-old Tschaggeny stole a backpack and wedding ring from one of the dying men — the ring directly off his finger. The items belonged to 53-year-old Ricky Best, a retired Army veteran and married father of four who had tried to stop a known white supremacist from abusing two young women.

Many were quick to peg Tschaggeny a monster. But the reality is the alleged thief was once celebrated for his bravery, too.

“If you think for one minute this can’t happen with someone in your family, you are grossly mistaken.”

In 2010, Portland police awarded Tschaggeny the Civilian Medal of Heroism after he and another man apprehended an armed bank robbery suspect in March of that year. The award citation, which the Portland Police Bureau shared with HuffPost, described the two men’s actions as “courageous and selfless.”

That was years before Tschaggeny’s life was upended by addiction, as The Oregonian and KOIN 6 News reported this week. Before he, like too many other Americans, became part of the deadly opioid epidemic now sweeping communities across the nation. Before he became homeless and decided to steal from a dying man.

“Not in my wildest dreams would I ever imagine he’d be facing what he’s facing,” Tschaggeny’s former wife told The Oregonian. “This is just not him.”

“Addiction is a situation of desperation,” his sister Camille told KOIN 6, adding that desperate people often do desperate things.

Tschaggeny, like Best, is a military veteran and was once happily married, according to The Oregonian. He worked in property management, dreamed of opening a restaurant and, in his spare time, enjoyed hiking and biking.

But he dealt with chronic knee pain stemming from childhood injuries, which was eventually treated with prescription painkillers. And as some opioid prescriptions do, Tschaggeny’s led to addiction. Eventually, he turned to heroin. …

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