While driving to my gym one recent morning, I noticed two police vehicles at a service station and yellow tape blocking the entrances. Robbery investigation, perhaps?
On my ride home, I saw a stretcher containing what appeared to be a body covered up by a sheet. As I learned later that week, a man in his mid-20’s had died from an opioid overdose, right in his car at the gas pump.
That this tragedy occurred in my own suburban neighborhood was unnerving, but it didn’t shock me. Statistics put out by the Monroe County Heroin Task Force (https://www2.monroecounty.gov/sheriff-heroin-task-force) show that our growing opioid crisis affects urban and suburban settings alike. Of the 566 overdoses reported in Monroe County this year through June 30 — 85 of them fatal — nearly every suburb was affected.
The Diocesan Public Policy Committee has made this crisis an educational priority for 2018, and I’ll be writing more about it in the Catholic Courier’s September edition. In the meantime, I find myself reflecting quite often on the power of addiction.
I’ve never been addicted to opioids, but freely admit to compulsive and addictive tendencies during my lifetime that sometimes have only been held in check through willpower and prayer.
A surprising revelation on my part? Hardly. Not only can drugs upend one’s life but so can high levels of drinking, smoking, gambling and sex. The same holds true for generally accepted activities such as eating, work, television, Internet and social-media usage, video games, money-spending and exercise.
Acknowledging addiction as a basic human tendency helps keep me from dismissing the man at the gas station as having gotten what he deserved. There are no easy answers in solving the opioid problem, but perhaps trying to understand the root causes of addiction is a good start.