Are Guns or Drugs the problem?

If you were asked which is more deadly, drugs or guns, what would you say?

If you answered guns you would be wrong according to the report that just came out. “Drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of injury death in the United States, ahead of motor vehicle deaths and firearms (deaths),” the Drug Enforcement Agency announced on Wednesday.

The new numbers were part of the agency’s annual tally of deaths and death rates in 2015. Overall, the overdose death rate rose 11% last year to 52,404, which by comparison, the number of gun deaths rose by only 7% to 36,252. More people are killed in car crashes than by guns every year with the number of people dying in car crashes rising by 12% to 37,757 deaths in 2015.

Deaths from heroin rose 23% to 12,989 which was more than gun deaths for 2015.  More than 50,000 Americans died last year from drug overdoses, which is the highest figure ever, over the total number of gun deaths, which included suicides and accidents.

Gun deaths only rose by only 7% in 2015 compared to heroin deaths which rose by 23%.  It seems like the ‘war on drugs’ is losing ground in this battle across America. The tragic tally has been pushed by the soaring abuse of not only heroin but prescription painkillers like fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate that is 40 times stronger than heroin and has become the largest drug threat to America with 44 deaths daily. Fentanyl deaths rose 73% to 9,580 last year.

The overdose deaths, which are often accidental, of Vicodin and OxyContin, increased by 4% and killed 17,536 people. Most drug deaths are low profile and don’t get much attention with the media. But almost daily across the country there are stories and pictures of incidents in the news.

You can check out the graphic that Statista.com compiled comparing drug deaths by states.

West Virginia was the highest in America with 32.4 for every 100,000 people which is three times the national average. My state of Kentucky was third on the list which is disturbing when I think of the number of people who may be on the roads driving impaired or resorting to crime to promote their habit.

Drugs are not cheap and many drug abusers turn to prostitution, robbery and assault to pay for their habits. This results in an increase in home invasions as well as armed robberies and assaults. Although you may feel that you are not directly impacted by rampant drug abuse, you may just find yourself to be the victim of a drug related crime. Your house or car may get broken into while you are not at home. You may find yourself looking down the barrel of a gun in the hands of a desperate addict that will kill you if he/she has to. You may wake up in the night to find some drug crazed addict rummaging through your house looking for money, prescription drugs or anything of value that could be pawned off for money.

Additionally, everyone who pays taxes is a victim of drug abuse since millions of taxpayer dollars are spent every year for law enforcement and medical treatment of drug addicts and rehab centers. Just look at your paystub or when you file your income taxes each year and realize that part of that money is leaving your pocket to pay for drug abuse.

What this boils down to is, as communities, we must work to stop drug abuse before it begins. Children need to be taught the dangers of drugs at an earlier age about its dangers and the ruined lives they will have if they do drugs. Just recently, and thankfully, Ohio voters rejected a proposal that would have legalized both recreational and medical marijuana use. Unfortunately there are 23 other states plus Washington, D.C., that allow marijuana to be used for medical and recreational purposes.

The DEA views marijuana concentrates, which has potency levels that far exceed the levels of leaf marijuana, as a growing concern for America.  They also note that, according to law enforcement reports, some of the Mexican gangs are “relocating from major metropolitan areas to establish bases of operation in suburban or rural areas.”

The National Drug Threat Assessment also concluded that “Mexican gangs remain the greatest criminal drug threat to the United States”.

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