According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 88,000 Americans die each year from what they describe as “excessive alcohol use.” Meanwhile, in 2016, the most recent year for which numbers are available, drug overdoses accounted for 64,000 deaths—a figure that all indications suggest will be eclipsed by 2017’s numbers, when they become available. Given that alcohol is easily available and socially acceptable, while the drugs that are killing men, women, and young people are, hypothetically, difficult to procure, is all the more disturbing that the gap between these figures is narrowing so quickly.
Overdose deaths have become the number one public health crisis in our country. This issue of Yale Medicine Magazine explores how courageous faculty, students, and alumni from Yale School of Medicine are working to gain control over the storm that is raging through our country. From research into new types of pain treatment and patient care (“How treatment for addiction came out of the Dark Ages,” “Alternatives to opioids”) to policy based on clinical experience (“Needed: better strategies for combating the opioid epidemic”), YSM clinicians and researchers actively seek to reduce and destigmatize preventable death from this disease. It’s a daunting task.
The war over how to describe and treat substance use disorder has tremendously high stakes. Yale School of Medicine has produced and continues to produce leaders capable of posing ethical, empathetic, system-wide solutions to a deeply subversive affliction that, more than ever, holds American citizens in its grip.