In the story of America’s opioid crisis a recent tripling in prescriptions of the painkillers is generally portrayed as the villain. Researchers and policy makers have paid far less attention to how social losses—including stagnating wages and fraying ties among people—can increase physical and emotional pain to help drive the current drug epidemic.

But a growing body of work suggests this area needs to be explored more deeply if communities want to address the opioid problem. One studypublished earlier this year found that for every 1 percent increase in unemployment in the U.S., opioid overdose death rates rose by nearly 4 percent.


And yet throughout human history, humans have coped with periods of stress without using opiates.  Famine, drought, war, economic instability, plagues have all been survived without opiates.  Religion has been called “the opiate of the masses”.  Maybe the “real deal” is that we were all born with a God-shaped hole in our hearts.  Trying to fill that void with anything else is not going to provide the satisfaction that is sought.

Dr. Raymond Oenbrink
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