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By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest
The national drug epidemic has been a matter of concern for the past few years. Overdose incidents have skyrocketed, largely due to the misuse and over-prescription of opioid steroids. The rise in opioid use is a particularly difficult problem for public safety personnel, who must respond to overdose emergencies.
These emergencies put a tremendous strain on a department’s resources, particularly if the department is located in a rural community without easy access to advanced life support equipment and trained personnel. More importantly, the drug epidemic potentially creates other issues within a community that complicate how society functions.
Investigating Causes of the Drug Epidemic Can Lead to Solutions for First Responders
From a social science perspective, it is important to explore how and why the drug epidemic has become such an overarching problem. By understanding the specific factors that have spawned the drug epidemic, public officials can reduce drug overdoses through public health education campaigns and public policy changes.
Columbia University Anthropology Professor Provides Insight into Drug Epidemics
Of course, there are numerous factors that contribute to the overdose epidemic, but one article might provide insights into the cyclical nature of this type of epidemic. Through this perspective, we might be able to prevent future outbreaks of drug overdoses.
Ansley Hamid is an anthropology professor at Columbia University who specializes in drug epidemics. In his 1992 PubMed article, “The Developmental Cycle of a Drug Epidemic: the Cocaine Smoking Epidemic of 1981-1991,” Hamid explains how drug use follows cyclical patterns. He points to the epidemic of crack cocaine use that soared in the 1980s and then dropped substantially in the 1990s. Hamid also notes that that drug users play a pivotal role in rehabilitation or in creating the next drug epidemic.
Considerations for Public Policy and First Responders
The overdose epidemic is particularly problematic for public safety agencies because they are largely at the mercy of local governments for funds and equipment. Public safety officials will need to work closely with other departments to create solutions to this serious health issue. The creation of a public health campaign can be particularly helpful in addressing the drug epidemic.
As Hamid suggests, solving the current drug overdose epidemic is likely much more complicated than just educating the public about the dangers of drug use. If drug epidemics occur in cycles, then the solution lies in breaking that cycle through a comprehensive approach.
In addition, it will take further research to determine the factors that contribute to the drug epidemic crisis, instead of trying to use a one-size-fits-all approach.