Linda Mulley

Today, 142 people will die of an overdose

Stigma and denigration of drug users — and very often, their parents — have limited the public’s response to the crisis of opiate addiction and overdose death. Can a project like the AIDS Quilt help raise visibility and change our attitudes?

Thirty years ago, the AIDS Memorial Quilt project documented the many lives lost to AIDS and raised awareness of the devastations of this disease. This grassroots movement started by a handful of people in San Francisco grew to attract the attention of the entire nation and to raise millions for AIDS service organizations.

Perhaps it's time we considered a new quilt project to commemorate in a similar way those lost to substance use disorder.

The statistic for deaths due to drug overdose crested to 52,000 in 2015. This figure is considered an underestimation but, even if bang-on accurate, drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S.

Simple math tells us that more than 4,000 people die every month and more than 1,000 die every week from a drug-related overdose.

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